Using Acoustic Data to Locate, Identify, Assess and/or Recover Derelict Fishing Gear in Myriad Habitats

Session Chairs: Mark Borrelli, University of  Massachusetts; Laura Ludwig, Center for Coastal Studies

This session will bring together investigators and project teams that incorporate the use of sidescan sonar and other acoustic techniques to aid in the detection, removal and/or study of derelict fishing gear in coastal environments from shallow nearshore waters to deep ocean fishing grounds and freshwater inland lakes.

The recovery of derelict, lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear in marine and freshwater environments has become an important tool worldwide for reducing the amount of debris in our waterways and thus mitigating impacts to habitat and living resources. In the US alone, removal efforts have been made in shallow sandy bays, deep rocky canyons, and every strata and substrate in between.

Recovery projects which use sonar to locate targets and assess their habitat impacts require users to interpret acoustic data for effective and efficient removal efforts. With varying operating frequencies, instrument configurations, survey platforms and substrate types, the acquisition and interpretation of acoustic data is often central to a successful recovery effort.

This session will bring together investigators and projects that incorporate sidescan sonar and other acoustic techniques to aid in the detection, removal and/or study of derelict fishing gear in coastal environments, with an examination of the results found in shallow nearshore waters, at great depth, and on differing substrate. Presentations will explore image, signal and data interpretation, efficiency of various methodologies used across a wide range of habitats, ground-truthing efforts, cost-benefit relationships, and lessons learned. Collaborations with fishing industry, technology firms, research teams and federal, regional and state management entities will be highlighted.


Building evidence around ghost gear: Global trends and analysis for sustainable solutions at scale

Session Chairs: Kelsey Richardson, University of Tasmania, Australia and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO); Elizabeth Hogan, World Animal Protection

This session is designed for an audience interested in learning more about the data and information available surrounding abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG); the session will summarize the work by the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI)'s Build Evidence Working Group to compile a diverse data collection related to ALDFG and ghost gear from a variety of stakeholders around the world, and ongoing efforts to make this information known and accessible to anyone interested in and engaged with the ALDFG or ghost gear issues.

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) was launched in 2015 to collaboratively address the issue of ghost gear and abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) on local, regional and global scales.  The GGGI is comprised of a diverse variety of participants that include the fishing industry, the private sector including fishing gear manufacturers and the seafood industry, researchers, governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.  The GGGI addresses sea-based sources of marine debris, specifically ALDFG, and contributes to the Global Partnership on Marine Litter. 

The GGGI’s aims are: to improve the health of marine ecosystems; to protect marine animals from harm; and to safeguard human health and livelihoods.  This technical session is focused on communicating the goals, accomplishments and ongoing work by the GGGI’s Build Evidence Working Group (BE WG). 

A focus for the BE WG has been the development of a global database and associated web portal for ALDFG and ghost gear.  The database aims to bring together data that can help to fill knowledge gaps on the sources, locations, amounts, types, fates and impacts of ghost gear around the world.  Data analysis can be used to identify ghost gear “hotspots”, high risk fisheries for gear loss and temporal and spatial trends in ghost gear abundance and type.

The BE WG communicated with more than 100 individuals and organisations from more than 50 countries and territories to identify past, ongoing and planned work and initiatives around the ghost gear issue.  Many of these groups shared their data to help develop the centralised global ghost gear database.  Information collected from groups mostly originates from 5 main areas: 1) Cleanups (coastal and dive), 2) Surveys, 3) Removal/Retrieval projects, 4) data collected by fishing vessels themselves or observers onboard, and 5) data about impacts to animals and wildlife (frequently disentanglement or strandings data).

Another key accomplishment for the BE WG was the development of a global ghost gear ‘app’ whereby a variety of users can input data about found and/or recovered ghost gear and its impacts using a common data reporting form.  This app was designed to collect more information about ghost gear globally as well as to provide a consistent method for data reporting where disparate data types can be compared against one another in a standardised way.

The GGGI’s BE WG also created a centralised information sharing platform that users can visit to search for and find publications and literature about ghost gear, with categories organised by geography, gear types, impacts, fisheries, and year.

This session will benefit the conference by engaging audience members on the global ALDFG issue, a key and distinct part of the global marine debris issue.  Sharing the GGGI’s BE WG’s transboundary data from around the world benefits a range of international stakeholders including the scientific community, policy makers and managers, and those involved with ALDFG removal by advancing information sharing and collaboration on this important topic.


How circular economy and cross-sectoral collaborations can unlock solutions for eliminating ghost fishing gear

Session Chairs: Christina Dixon, World Animal Protection / Global Ghost Gear Initiative; Joan Drinkwin, Natural Resource Consultants

This session will focus on international examples for coastal communities and fishing industry stakeholders of how innovative ideas and cross-sectoral collaborations are creating financial and environmental benefits while facilitating the reduction of abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) 

Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), otherwise known as ‘ghost gear’, is of increasing concern due to its numerous negative impacts.

In a recent study by CSIRO and the Ocean Conservancy into marine litter, derelict fishing gear, including nets, fishing line, traps and buoys were found to pose the greatest overall threat to all types of marine wildlife, largely through entanglement. As fishing gear is purposefully designed to catch animals, the impact on wildlife once lost or abandoned can be catastrophic. Furthermore, the ability of ALDFG to continue to fish (often referred to as “ghost fishing”) has detrimental impacts on fish stocks, coastal livelihoods, endangered species and benthic environments.

In 2015 World Animal Protection launched the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) to bring together the seafood sector, governments, civil society and academia to drive sustainable solutions to this issue at a global scale. Many countries at the United Nations have vocally expressed their support for the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and in 2016 the UN General Assembly formally recognized that ‘ghost gear’ has serious and increasingly pervasive economic, social and environmental impacts on the marine eco-system.

Within the GGGI there are three working groups, operating holistically and systematically to build evidence of ALDFG, develop and implement best practices for the management of fishing gear throughout the seafood supply chain and catalyse sustainable solutions.

The GGGI ‘Catalyse and Replicate Solutions Working Group’ brings together global experts who are leading on the development and management of sustainable, replicable solutions to facilitate the removal, reduction and often recycling of ALDFG.

This session aims to move away from a focus on the problem and look at solutions that are working around the world to engage and mobilise the fishing industry, coastal communities, designers and the private sector to think laterally and collaboratively to reduce the abundance of ghost gear in our oceans. The solutions working group speakers on the panel will shine a light on examples of how circular economy thinking and innovation is providing opportunities to practically stem the tide of end of life fishing gear into the sea and transform this waste into a resource.

Represented in the session will be Joel Baziuk from Steveston Harbour Authority, who has been working with the local fishing industry in British Columbia, Canada, to create lasting and systemized recycling projects to keep fishing gear out of the water; Claire Potter, who is leading a project on the south coast of England to explore how ALDFG could be identified, categorised, separated and potentially monetised locally – looking from an inclusive design perspective for circular economy led solutions to create potential new ‘products’; and David Stover, one of the founders of Bureo, a company who combined their expertise in product design and a passion for the oceans and social enterprise to work with a fishing community in Chile and create skateboards from fishing nets. 

The audience will come away with concrete examples of successful solution projects and the start of a toolkit of how the circular economy model can be implemented to reduce the impact of ghost gear in our oceans.

Innovative Advancements in Limiting the Impacts of Derelict Fishing Gear

Session Chair: Carlie Herring, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Marine Debris Program

This session will focus on actionable guidance or findings from research to prevent gear loss and to disable lost gear in order to reduce target species mortality and habitat impacts.

Lost or discarded fishing gear that is no longer under a fisherman’s control becomes known as

derelict fishing gear (DFG), and it can continue to trap and kill fish, crustaceans, marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds. The most common types of DFG to ghost fish are gillnets and crab pots/traps. Ghost fishing can impose a variety of harmful impacts, including: the ability to kill target and non-target organisms, including endangered and protected species; causing damage to underwater habitats such as coral reefs and benthic fauna; and contributing to marine pollution.

Derelict fishing gear (DFG) can continue to confine and entangle both target and bycatch species with implications for the overall status of these populations. DFG resting on top of or becoming entangled with habitat-forming species leads to physical abrasion and breakage and during high wind events, DFG can move great distances, creating large areas of impact. Although the contribution of abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear to marine debris has long been recognized worldwide, quantitative data are sparse for many regions.

This technical session will highlight research that seeks to prevent gear loss and to disable lost gear. Speakers in this session will highlight actionable guidance or findings from research that could be implemented more broadly through pilot studies or regulatory changes.

Topics of interest include: gear alternatives; gear modifications to prevent loss; gear modifications to disable lost gear; best practices to reduce loss; best practices for engaging with fishermen; rate of loss studies; derelict gear density studies; target species mortality in derelict gear; habitat impacts from derelict gear

While removal efforts can be discussed, speakers will be asked to explore implementable results from their projects, rather than just the removal methods and amount of derelict gear removed.

Fighting the ghosts in our oceans: Implementing best practice to eliminate ALDFG through policy, practice, education and outreach

Session Chairs: Joanna Toole, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); Lynn Kavanagh, World Animal Protection; Jason Morgan, Northwest Straits Foundation

This session will showcase efforts being made to eliminate the threat of Abandoned, Lost or Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG) from the world’s oceans through the development of best practice guidelines and education and outreach with fishing communities.

The Best Practice Framework for the Management of Fishing Gear (BPF) developed by the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), launched in 2017 will be presented by World Animal Protection, demonstrating how the cause and impact of ALDFG can be reduced by taking action at different stages of the life-cycle of the gear and with interventions across the seafood supply chain. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will demonstrate work taking place at the UN level to develop International Guidelines on the Marking of Fishing Gear - one example of best practice, and the implementation of these Guidelines through pilot projects. The Northwest Straits Foundation will provide insights on work that is happening within fishing communities around the world to implement best practice and how this is being achieved through outreach and education campaigns.

Collectively, these organizations will demonstrate the progress being made at different levels with multiple stakeholders that together represent significant progress on this issue. This session will be interactive, providing the audience with an opportunity for learning through the discussion of case studies.

Successful Newly Lost Fishing Gear Programs and the Role of Local Ecological Knowledge to Solve Marine Debris Problems

Session Chairs: Joan Drinkwin, Natural Resources Consultants; Kyle Antonelis, Natural Resources Consultants; Daniel Tonnes; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service

The session will provide an overview of the importance of local ecological knowledge to solve lost fishing gear problems and will include a panel discussion highlighting successful newly lost fishing gear removal programs.

The session will highlight the importance of working with local ecological knowledge to lost fishing gear problems.  The session will include speakers detailing research, documentation, prevention and removal of various types of lost fishing gear through the aid of Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) from fishers, divers, researchers, and other stakeholders.  LEK is critical to identify areas where fishing gear is lost or may accumulate in marine waters. In general, empirical data records reflecting information about lost fishing gear is rare, even under some of the most sophisticated fishery management regimes. Therefore, LEK is often the only source for initial investigations aimed at understanding the location, quantity, density, and extent of lost fishing gear in a particular region. LEK is also the fastest and most accurate source of information about newly lost fishing gear.

The session will close with a panel discussion featuring successful programs that systematically remove newly lost fishing gear through collaboration with fishers, volunteers, and fisheries managers. This panel will provide examples from a variety of net and trap fisheries of programs involving the fisheries managers and the private sector, including commercial and recreational fishers, designed to locate and remove lost fishing gear on at least an annual basis. The session will cover the regulatory and/or programmatic framework needed to achieve regular removal of lost fishing gear and will cover lessons learned, challenges, costs, and funding.

See Other Tracks: Monitoring and Citizen Science · Research and Microplastic/Microfibers · Prevention · Private Sector Collaboration, Technology, and Innovation · Education and Communication · Implementing Effective Law Regulations, and Policy · Removal · Single-Use Product Policies, Regulations and Laws · Innovative Case Studies from Around the World