Fishing nets account for more than 85% of the plastic waste in the oceans.

The environmental organisation Greenpeace estimates that the old fishing nets kill 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and turtles every year. According to the United Nations, 640,000 tons of fishing gear are disposed of in the seas and oceans every year.

Fishing gear, including nets, lines and traps, accounts for more than 85 percent of the plastic waste found on the sea floor, according to environmental watchdog Greenpeace in a report released on Wednesday.

Seal caught in net
Seal caught in net

In another report published ten years ago, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated the amount of plastic from fishing that polluted the oceans at 10%.

Non-biodegradable fishing gear lost or discarded by shipowners will continue to catch fish and crustaceans for many years to come, killing other animals such as dolphins, seals and turtles. In 2018, more than 300 turtles of endangered species were found dead off Mexico after being caught in a seemingly forgotten fishing net.

The non-governmental organisation Animal Protection estimates that abandoned fishing nets kill 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and turtles every year. According to the United Nations, 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear is discarded at sea every year.

Plastic, because it is resistant, is one of the most commonly used materials in the fishing industry. When it finally breaks down into small particles after many years, it is absorbed by the fish, which are then eaten by humans.

For several years now, non-governmental organisations have been urging the UN to introduce a “governance system” to protect the marine fauna and flora. To date, 64% of the marine area is outside the sovereignty of countries. Such a “system of governance” could, among other things, oblige fishing companies to retrieve their equipment and impose fines in the event of negligence.

While waiting for concrete measures to be taken, several environmental organisations have begun a hunt for plastic left behind by fishing vessels at sea.

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