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.




Harnessing the power of citizen science to build evidence for sustainable solutions: Dive Against Debris®, a case study

presenting: Hannah Pragnell-Raasch (Project AWARE, United States); authors: Hannah Pragnell-Raasch (Project AWARE, Australia)

Building evidence is an essential component for finding sustainable solutions not only to address the global ghost gear issue but also the marine debris issue more broadly.

Through Project AWARE®’s global marine debris survey, Dive Against Debris®, citizen scuba divers are empowered in the removal and reporting of marine debris items encountered at dive sites across the globe. Critical quantitative evidence is yielded regarding the types and quantities of marine debris items found underwater on the seafloor, including abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG). Additionally, information concerning the impacts marine debris has on marine life is captured including entanglement, injury and death. Debris-free sites are also recorded.

Through the Global Ghost Gear Initiative’s Building Evidence Working Group, Project AWARE has contributed the global Dive Against Debris dataset supporting the development of the centralised global ghost gear database. This data has helped inform where ALDFG has and has not been recorded at various dive sites across the globe. The geographic scope and diversity of the Dive Against Debris dataset provides unique insights to the global ghost gear issue. Additionally, the data generated through Dive Against Debris provides one of just a few sources of absence data to inform where ghost gear has not been found. This is an essential component for identifying true ghost gear hotspots where management efforts should be prioritised.

In this presentation we demonstrate the way in which a citizen science program, Dive Against Debris, whilst being more broadly marine debris focused, is invaluable in building evidence for sustainable solutions to the global ghost gear issue.


Documenting Species Impacts From Entanglement in Derelict Fishing Nets in the U.S. Salish Sea

presenting: Joan Drinkwin (Natural Resources Consultants, Inc., United States); authors: Joan Drinkwin (Natural Resources Consultants, Inc., United States), Kyle Antonelis (Natural Resources Consultants, Inc.), Tom Good (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), Paul Rudell (Natural Resources Consultants, Inc.), Michael Etnier (Applied Osteology), Jason Morgan (Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Foundation), Anne Elz (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

As early as the 1970s, researchers and managers were documenting negative impacts of lost commercial fishing nets in the Washington State region of the Salish Sea. After decades of salmon fishing, over 6,000 pieces of fishing nets may have been lost there. Since 2002, a concerted effort has removed lost nets and net remnants and quantified their negative impacts on species and habitats. Through 2016, 5,784 lost fishing nets and net remnants have been removed from U.S. Salish Sea waters to a depth of 100 feet.

The removal protocols established for retrieval activities include rigorous scientific data collection. All animals found entangled in retrieved nets were identified to the lowest possible taxon via onboard observation, laboratory identification of bones and carcasses, or DNA analysis. All data is stored in a publicly available online database.

Tens of thousands of animals were found entangled in retrieved nets. For birds, 1,103 individuals, representing 18 species, were documented. For fish, 5,709 individuals (3,493 dead/2,216 alive), representing over 50 species, were documented. For marine mammals, 71 individuals, representing four species, were documented. Many species of invertebrates were also found mortally entangled in retrieved nets, including 5,392 dead Dungeness crab (Cancer magister), a species of economic value to the regional fisheries economy.

Documenting these impacts has proved invaluable to engaging fisheries managers and political leaders in finding solutions to the problem of lost fishing nets in both the U.S and Canadian waters of the Salish Sea. Armed with scientifically defensible data, proponents for solutions have been successful at funding large-scale net retrieval operations as well as developing a rapid response program designed to retrieve newly lost nets reported by fishers.


Using and improving data relating to lost fishing gear

presenting: Gideon Jones (Emerald Sea Protection Society, Canada); authors: Gideon Jones (Emerald Sea Protection Society, Canada)

Information relating to lost or abandoned fishing gear (ALDFG) is challenging to work with. It can be difficult to acquire; the quality of data is often indeterminate; the data is sourced from a wide range of geographical locations & organizations and typically incommensurate in structure and type.

Given these inherent challenges, we will discuss what questions can meaningfully be asked of this data and what can be done to work with such a disparate data set. Having reviewed existing datasets as well as worked with a range of stakeholders to develop a more idealized data structure, we are able to examine what we can achieve by looking back at data collected so far and how we can improve data collection moving forward. Past data is illustrated by geographical distribution and type, and I explore the validity of using that data to identify rates of gear loss and origin.

Looking forward, a new data structure is proposed that is designed to be compatible with a wide range of data collection efforts that might be focused on other marine debris issues (e.g. entanglement or ingestion surveys) and how we can benefit from those efforts in mapping lost fishing gear. I will also introduce a mobile application allowing the submission of lost fishing gear reports, as one example of a range of possible methods for submitting data to this improved database. Ideas relating to data stewardship and potential use of this dataset will be discussed.


Building evidence for the health impacts of lost, abandoned and discarded fishing gear on marine wildlife

presenting: Kirsten Gilardi (Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, United States); authors: Kirsten Gilardi (Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, United States), Kristen MacDonald (School of Veterinary Medicine)

Marine wildlife morbidity and mortality caused by fishing gear entanglement and ingestion is surprisingly poorly documented in the scientific literature. What data exist have largely been the result of larger studies evaluating impacts of fisheries or other threats to conservation of marine species, with just a handful of clinical case reports on individual injured animals hinting at the potential scale of this problem. We suspect that the impact of lost, abandoned and discarded fishing gear on marine wildlife is vastly under-reported, largely because the majority of data exist in the unpublished records of wildlife rehabilitation organizations. This is likely particularly true of data on fishing gear ingestion, as such data are collected primarily by wildlife rehabilitation organizations with access to diagnostic imaging equipment and surgery. Previously, in order to better understand the scale of the problem of fishing gear-related injuries in California marine wildlife, we systematically reviewed medical records held by wildlife rehabilitation organizations on admissions of select marine birds and mammals for fishing gear entanglement and ingestion injuries over multiple years, and determined that more than 10% of animals admitted for care were presenting with fishing-gear related morbidities. Utilizing similar methods for data retrieval and analyses, the Global Ghost Gear Initiative’s Build Evidence Working Group is now compiling data from unpublished records at wildlife rehabilitation organizations around the world to compile a comprehensive global database on fishing gear ingestion by marine wildlife that will enable an epidemiologic evaluation of the scale at which fishing gear ingestion impacts the health of marine wildlife.


Don’t assume it is ghost gear: accurate gear characterization is critical for entanglement mitigation

presenting: Laura Ludwig (Center for Coastal Studies, United States); authors: Regina Asmutis-Silvia (WDC North America, United States), Susan Barco (Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center), Allison Henry (NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center), Laura Ludwig (Center for Coastal Studies), Amy Knowlton (New England Aquarium), Scott Landry (Center for Coastal Studies), David Mattila (International Whaling Commission), Michael Moore (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Jooke Robbins (Center for Coastal Studies), Julie van der Hoop (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Entanglement is a significant conservation and welfare issue which is limiting the recovery of a number of marine species, including marine mammals. It is therefore important to reliably identify the causes of these events, including the nature of the entangling gear in order to reduce or prevent them in the future. A recently published review of marine debris assessed 76 publications and attributed a total of 1805 cases of cetacean entanglements in “ghost gear”, of which 78% (n=1413) were extracted from 13 peer reviewed publications. We examined the 13 publications cited in the review and found that the specific gear type or status of gear involved in the reported events was rarely mentioned beyond the fact that it was fishing related. This is likely due to the fact that determinations of debris as the entangling material are very difficult. In fact, in reviewing 10 years of large whale entanglement records for the U.S., the authors of another study reported that Hawaii was the only region in which any entangling gear was positively identified as ghost gear. We believe that the assumption that entangling gear is marine debris unless otherwise stated is dangerous because it could impact efforts to modify or restrict risk-prone fishing in key marine mammal habitats. Entanglement in actively fished gear poses a very real threat, and claims that only lost or abandoned fishing gear is responsible for entanglements can undermine conservation efforts.


Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) Derelict Fishing Gear Removal Project

presenting: Kevin O’Brien (NOAA Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center, United States); authors: Kevin O’Brien (NOAA Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center, United States)

Since 1996, NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) Marine Debris Project and multi-agency partners have conducted large-scale derelict fishing gear (DFG) removal operations from the reefs and shorelines of the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (now Papahānaumokuākea Marine National monument (PMNM)). This remote archipelago is home to numerous endangered, endemic, threatened, and protected species, including seabirds, green sea turtles, and Hawaiian monk seals. In addition to presenting an immediate threat to wildlife, DFG can scour, break, smother, and otherwise damage critically important marine habitats such as coral reefs.

To date PIFSC has removed more than 1.9 million pounds (848 metric tons) of DFG in an effort to mitigate the hazards that this marine debris presents to this important ecological community. To accomplish this, NOAA’s team has utilized in-water manta-tow and swim survey methods and breath-hold snorkel removal techniques. This presentation will review survey and removal methods, summarize the 2012-2016 efforts and suggest best practices (and share lessons learned).


How building evidence on ghost gear drives advocacy efforts to implement the sustainable development agenda and catalyses sustainable solutions at scale.

presenting: Ingrid Giskes (Global Ghost Gear Initiative – Chair of Steering Group, Australia); authors: Ingrid Giskes (Global Ghost Gear Initiative – Chair of Steering Group, Australia)

In 2014, World Animal Protection (WAP) launched its Sea Change Campaign with the Fishing’s Phantom Menace report highlighting that cross-sectoral global collaboration was a necessary approach to combat ghost gear. In 2015, WAP launched the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), bringing together a critical group of stakeholders and experts on this topic. The GGGI addresses sea-based sources of marine debris, specifically ALDFG, and contributes to the delivery of the first target (14.1) under Sustainable Development Goal 14, calling for a significant reduction in marine debris of all kinds by 2025.

From the start of our campaign and the GGGI, we have understood that at the heart of facilitating buy-in, engagement and formulating effective solutions – whether prevention, mitigation or cure-based – is the need to understand the problem. Sharing data, intelligence and resources to understand global abundance, causes, impacts and trends has been critical to develop a successful pathway to change, as well as galvanise action and interest from the international community.

In my presentation, I will highlight the pathway to the decision to work on the issue of ghost gear and how evidence has played a key role in formulating a global approach and strategy, as well as supported our advocacy efforts at the international level. I will also highlight how building evidence is helping the Initiative direct solution delivery in ghost gear hotspots, create opportunities for solution projects using best practice models, and enable global monitoring to catalyse further change as part of the Sustainable Development Goal ambitions.