GGGI gains traction among UN Member States

On World Ocean’s Day 2016, United Nations Member State representatives joined World Animal Protectionteam members at United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss protecting oceans and marine animals from the growing threat of lost, abandoned and discarded fishing gear – or ‘ghost gear’.

The event ‘Taking action on ghost fishing gear' saw representatives from Sweden, Tonga, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Palau, Thailand, and Vanuatu, who all co-sponsored the event, speak on the growing issue of ghost gear and marine debris and its threat to marine life, ecosystems, and people.

Speakers in attendance commented on the Global Ghost Gear Initiative’s (GGGI) ability to raise awareness and drive solutions to the serious problems caused by lost and abandoned fishing gear worldwide.

Introductory comments were provided by H.E. Ambassador Mahe’Uli’uli Sandhurst Tupouniu, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Tonga to the United Nations and H.E. Ambassador Per Thöresson Deputy Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations.

The keynote address was presented by H.E. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation and Climate, Ms. Isabella Lövin, of Sweden, who said:

Multi-stakeholder platforms are needed to deal with [the issue of ghost fishing gear] at a global level and a wide range of stakeholders are needed to tackle this problem. The GGGI is undoubtedly an initiative worth supporting. 

Ms. Elizabeth Hogan, World Animal Protection U.S.’ Sea Change Campaign Manager, discussed the scale of animal suffering and death caused by lost and abandoned fishing gear and the progress made by the GGGI.

Conservative estimates report that 136,000 marine animals, including whales, dolphins and seals die from ghost gear related injuries each year.

Ms. Hogan also spoke about the useful items which can be created from recycled ghost gear including designer jeans and GGGI participant Bureo’s sunglasses and skateboards. Hogan said:

This material has incredible economic value.

Ambassador Dr. Caleb Otto of Palau added that our actions are key to preventing marine animal suffering. Otto said:

We can save animals through advocating for behavioral change of people.

H.E. Ambassador Mr Odo Tevi, Permanent Representative of Vanuatu, declared our collective responsibility to conserve our oceans:

Human life cannot sustain with heavily polluted oceans which will cause the decline of fish stocks. We are working on a national ocean policy and we are happy to partner with World Animal Protection and it is a good example of an innovative partnership.

H.E. Ambassador Carolyn Schwalger, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand recognized the GGGI’s comprehensive approach:

As an island nation, oceans are so important for us; the ocean is a great neighbor. We like that the GGGI is about sharing knowledge, and we appreciate its inclusive approach.

H.E. Ambassador Luke Daunivalu, Deputy Permanent Representative of Fiji stressed that additional partnerships will be key in tackling the issues of marine debris on a global level adding: 

We need to develop partnerships with civil society, industry and others.

A study featured earlier this year in the Washington Post claimed that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans.

Ms. Lövin affirmed the need for express action to solve the issues at hand:

Time is running out but there is still reason for hope. It is still possible to save our oceans.”