The deadliest catch: world’s biggest seafood companies can do more to address lost fishing gear

08 March 2018

When fishing gear is lost or abandoned, it turns our oceans into a sea life death-trap – but big companies can help stop animals suffering

Our new report shows that the world’s 15 biggest seafood companies can do more to protect sea animals and precious marine ecosystems. 

Fishing’s plastic problem 

The problem of lost or abandoned fishing gear – known as ‘ghost gear’ – is getting worse. Marine animals are suffering. When animals like whales and seals get entangled or swallow pieces of plastic from ghost gear, it can lead to malnutrition, mutilation and cause a slow and painful death. 

Ghost gear is killing between an estimated 5 and 30% of fish in some areas. Often made out of plastic, ghost gear can persist in our oceans for up to 600 years

The prevention of ghost gear is vital. Every year more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals and turtles become entangled in ghost gear.  

Lost gear is four times more likely to trap and kill marine animals than all other forms of marine debris combined. It’s also contributing to the ocean’s plastic problem. 

A seal caught in fishing gear lost or abandoned in the ocean 

Industry must do more 

The 15 seafood companies in our Ghosts beneath the waves report are ranked from one to five on their ability to address the problem of ghost gear.  

But not one of the world’s biggest seafood companies is making responsible handling of their fishing gear integral to their business strategy.  

However, some seafood companies have shown they are making some steps towards tackling the ghost gear problem.  

Young’s Seafood, Thai Union and Tri Marine all have responsible management of fishing gear on their agendas. But we would like to see more companies act now and become part of the solution.  

Worryingly, our Ghosts beneath the waves report shows that 73% of companies we assessed do not have a plan to act on abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear or do not publicly acknowledge the issue.  

  • The average company score was just 22% 
  • Fewer than half of the companies effectively address marine litter, marine pollution or bycatch/entanglement 
  • Just three companies – Young’s Seafood, Tri Marine and Thai Union have established policies on lost and abandoned fishing gear 
  • Only two companies, Bumble Bee and Clearwater Seafoods, publicly disclose that they have 100% verifiable traceability of their produces and oversight of supply chains 
  • Only two of the companies, Tri Marine and Young’s Seafood, are a participant of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.   

Australian Government must do more

The Gulf of Carpentaria is a haven to six of the world's seven sea turtle species and has some of the largest sea turtle nesting areas in the Indo-Pacific region. Sadly, the Gulf is also a vortex for ghost gear, the primary threat facing turtles in this region. Entanglement in ghost gear is one of the most common known causes of sea turtle deaths in Australia. 

The Australian Government needs to accelerate the introduction of a plan to protect sea animals from marine debris (Threat Abatement Plan). A draft of the Threat Abatement Plan contained a number of actions to address ghost gear in Australian Waters, but it's not clear when the Australian Government will finalise the plan, nor whether specific actions will be funded. 

Dolphins should be able to enjoy their natural habitat, free from ghost gear 

Read the full report

"It’s heart-breaking to know that animals caught in this incredibly durable gear can suffer from debilitating wounds or suffocate or starve to death over a number of months." - Our CEO Steve McIvor