IUU and ghost gear: What are the links?

Both illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) and ghost gear are considered a threat to food security and sustainable fisheries, but the links between these two issues are poorly understood. 

Take a look at our infographic explaining how the two topics are connected. 

IUU fishing has many negative environmental, economic and social impacts. It is a major contributor to overfishing and impacts on the sustainability of fisheries.

640,000 tonnes of fishing gear are lost or abandoned in our oceans each year, making up around one tenth of all marine litter. This ‘ghost gear’ has increased as fishing efforts intensify, creating wide-ranging problems for the marine environment.

Hotspot areas for IUU can lead to higher amounts of ghost gear as vessels fishing illegal are more likely to abandon or lose their gear. This has an impact on fish stocks, wildlife and livelihoods.

Organisations including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have acknowledged the link between ghost gear and IUU.

Vessels fishing illegally are known to abandon and lose gear

  • Evade capture: IUU vessels are known to dump gear to destroy evidence when capture from an enforcement vessel is likely

  • Night fishing: IUU fishers often work under difficult conditions, for instance during the night, which increases the possibility of losing gear

  • Ensure port access: IUU fishers may dump their gear to avoid being denied entry to port

  • Gear conflict: Gear conflict, particularly between active and static gear, is a common cause of ALDFG. Vessels operating illegal may not obey fisheries management guidance for avoiding gear conflict

Both IUU and ghost gear pose a major threat to sustainable fisheries and food security

What we know:

  • Due to the link between IUU and ghost gear, we can assume that IUU fishing has a negative impact on the conservation and welfare of marine animals

  • IUU fishing and its methods can lead to the inhumane treatment of animals (for example illegal shark finning)

  • IUU fishing often ignores legislation and methods used are often destructive to the environment

  • IUU fishing often leads to high amounts of bycatch

The GGGI is a global leader in the development of best practice guidance for the management of fishing gear and a catalyst for solutions.

Stakeholders throughout the seafood supply chain can support efforts to mitigate IUU and ghost gear by:

  • Joining the Global Ghost Gear Initiative

  • Adopting the Best Practice Framework for the Management of Fishing Gear

  • Supporting international efforts on gear marking to assist enforcement

  • Supporting the implementation of existing intergovernmental agreements

  • Supporting prohibition of economic incentives to engage in IUU fishing

  • Improving cooperation between regional fisheries management and enforcement authorities