Using data from 68 studies published between 1975 and 2017, researchers have now a clear global picture of the quantity and type of fishing gear lost worldwide.

The type of fishing gear used, along with how and where it is used, can all influence gear loss by fishers. We found that bad weather, gear becoming ensnared on the seafloor, and gear interfering with other gear types are the most common reasons for commercial fishing gear being lost,

...explains Kelsey Richardson, a PhD student from CSIRO’s Marine Debris Team, who led the study.

Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear or ‘ghost gear’ contributes substantially to global marine pollution responsible for wide-reaching environmental and socioeconomic impacts.

As fishing gear can take hundreds of years to breakdown, it becomes marine pollution with significant consequences for marine life and habitats, while it can also be a navigation hazard.

The study, published in Fish and Fisheries, also found that reporting of commercial fishing gear lost at sea has increased through time.

This is most likely due to improved reporting procedures and increases in the number of studies on gear loss across geographic areas and fisheries.

Findings from this global study can be applied in the Australian context to support research priorities, risks assessments and monitoring, CSIRO noted.

These new global estimates on fishing gear losses fill 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...An estimated 40.3 million people are employed in fisheries globally and the costs of replacing gear can add up quickly. Reducing the amount that ends up in the oceans is good for industry, good for the environment, and good for global food security,

...says Dr Denise Hardesty, Principal Research Scientist with CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere.

Currently, much of the data on gear loss is from the United States and Europe, highlighting the need for more information about gear losses in the African, Asian, South American and Oceania regions.

In 2017, the Global Ghost Gear Initiative issued the second part of its study, entitled "Best Practices Framework for the Management of Fishing Gear", providing practical guidance to decrease the abundance and effects of ghost gear.

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