GGGI brings together MPs, Fishermen and Seafood experts for fact-finding mission in Swansea

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative is bringing together experts from all over the globe to solve the devastating problem of ghost fishing gear in our oceans. Participants recently came together in Wales for a special programme of events to look for practical solutions in the region to reduce the impact of this fishing litter on animals and the environment. 

Ghost gear is any fisheries-related litter, such as nets, pots, line and rope, that has been abandoned or lost at sea. Gear can be lost for a variety of reasons such as poor weather, conflict between different types of fishing equipment and snagging on underwater obstacles. While ghost gear can originate from fisheries anywhere in the world, Welsh fishermen are leading the way in defining best practice for responsible gear management, establishing gear recovery partnerships and trialling ways of modifying fishing gear to reduce the environmental impact of gear that cannot be retrieved. 

Local MPs Carolyn Harris and Geraint Davies along with Shadow Defra Secretary of State Kerry McCarthy joined GGGI participants from World Animal Protection, Youngs Seafood and representatives from the Welsh Fishermen’s Association for a fact finding mission at Swansea marina to learn more about how the GGGI is working collaboratively with a range of stakeholders from local fishermen up to the global seafood industry to tackle the issue. 

The MPs were told about a programme of work being developed by the Welsh Fishermen’s Association and the GGGI to proactively tackle the ghost gear in the region and set an example of industry-led solutions to an important environmental topic. 

Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Youngs Seafood, David Parker, and Dr Andy Woolmer, a consultant marine biologist for the WFA, led the tour to highlight some of the specific challenges facing Welsh fishermen and to promote low-tech solutions to prevent lost pots from ghost fishing such as gear modifications and biodegradable panels on lobster pots. Youngs, Steering Group members of the GGGI, wish to set a high standard within the fishing industry for developing best practice to prevent gear loss and promote solutions to the problem such as net recycling schemes, responsible gear management and innovations in fishing gear.  

The tour also included a practical visit to an active fishing vessel operated by World Animal Protection’s Sea Change Champion, Nigel Sanders. Mr Sanders was given the Award in June 2015 to recognise the innovative work he has been doing to increase sustainability in local fisheries by creating degradable hatches for his pots and promoting the use of escape gaps amongst local fishermen.

On board the vessel MPs were shown the modifications he has developed to limit the negative impacts of lost pots at sea; ranging from quick degrading screws on whelk pots to degradable rings that will release the door of a pot should the pot be lost, enabling trapped sea life, such as crabs, to escape. Nigel’s work is an example of the simple ways fishermen can adapt their gear to limit the long term impact of lost gear on the environment. 

Christina Dixon, UK Campaigner at World Animal Protection said:

This tour was an invaluable opportunity for GGGI members to get together with local, and interested, politicians to talk frankly about the issue of ghost gear and the role that industry can play in developing affordable, innovative and practical solutions in collaboration with other sectors to protect the marine environment. 

David Parker, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Young’s Seafood Limited, said:

As a leading processor of responsibly sourced fish we are delighted to be involved in the tour, seeking to celebrate best practice and promote seafood sustainability. Innovations to recover lost gear, prevent gear losses and to render lost gear benign to fish stocks will help both the fishing industry and the marine environment. As part of our Fish for Life CSR programme, we believe that a fish loving nation is a happier, healthier Nation now and for generations to come, which is why we’re committed to having a hands-on role in the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.