27 September 2023

CSIRO hooks into lost fishing gear

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The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has published the world’s first estimate of commercial fishing gear lost in oceans to create global marine pollution and wide-reaching environmental and socioeconomic impact.

The study, published in Fish and Fisheries, used data from 68 studies published between 1975 and 2017 to deliver a clear global picture of the quantity and type of fishing gear lost worldwide.

It found that reporting of commercial fishing gear lost at sea had increased through time.

Principal Research Scientist with CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere, Denise Hardesty said the new global estimates on fishing gear losses filled a critical knowledge gap.

“By understanding where and why gear is lost, we can help target interventions to reduce fishing gear ending up in our oceans,” Dr Hardesty said.

“When fishers lose gear at sea, they are not only adding to plastic pollution, but affecting their livelihoods,” she said.

PhD student from CSIRO’s Marine Debris Team, Kelsey Richardson who led the study, said it estimated that six per cent of all fishing nets, nine per cent of all traps, and 29 per cent of all lines were lost or discarded into the world’s oceans every year.

“The type of fishing gear used, along with how and where it is used, can all influence gear loss by fishers,” Ms Richardson said.

She said researchers found that bad weather, gear becoming ensnared on the seafloor, and gear interfering with other gear types were the most common reasons for commercial fishing gear being lost.

“When fishing gear becomes marine pollution, it has significant consequences for marine life and habitats and can be a navigation hazard. It can take hundreds of years to break down,” Ms Richardson said.

The study’s published report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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