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Introducing the Global Ghost Gear Initiative Small Grants Recipients of 2022

Ocean Conservancy announces second cohort of GGGI Small Grants program recipients

Ghost Net 3
© Uganda Junior Rangers

Ocean Conservancy’s Global Ghost Gear Initiative® (GGGI) engages with international leadership as well as grassroots projects around the world to combat ghost gear—abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG). GGGI membership includes representatives from academia, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector dedicated to combat this most harmful form of marine debris.

Inspired by and modeled after a similar small grants program sponsored by Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup® (ICC) in support of ocean cleanup projects, Ocean Conservancy launched its GGGI Small Grants Program in 2021. This program builds greater capacity for GGGI projects by providing the financing and mentoring support needed for GGGI member projects with the aim of preventing, mitigating and remediating ghost gear.

The GGGI also designates an annual recipient of the Joanna Toole Ghost Gear Solutions Award. This award was established in 2019 to honor GGGI co-founder, United Nations worker and former World Animal Protection campaigner Joanna Toole who tragically lost her life at age 36 in the March 2019 Ethiopian airlines crash. This award, presented to projects that show excellence in tackling the problem of ghost gear, is made possible by support from Ocean Conservancy, the Government of Norway and Joanna’s friends, family members and colleagues, including the Joanna Toole Foundation.

Adrian Toole, Chair of the Foundation and Joanna Toole’s father, had this to say about the award: “As Joanna’s father and on behalf of the Trustees of the Joanna Toole Foundation, I am very grateful that Ocean Conservancy and the Government of Norway are awarding this, the fourth yearly award, that both honors Joanna and continues her work for animal welfare. Joanna was among the first campaigners to recognize the terrible toll that ghost gear exacts on aquatic life and its detrimental effect on the economies of fishing communities.”

In 2022, the GGGI Small Grants program received 15 applications from members in 10 countries that spanned from East Africa to South and Southeast Asia, Europe and North America. Applications were reviewed by the GGGI leadership as well as members of the Expert Advisory Council. With support from Ocean Conservancy, the Government of Norway, Norwegian Retailers’ Environment Fund and Morgan Stanley, we are excited to announce a total of $205,000 in grants awarded to six organizations working to mitigate, prevent and remediate ghost gear.

The GGGI is proud to present the following grant recipients:

Fourth Annual Joanna Toole Ghost Gear Solutions Awardee

NP Junior Rangers Uganda Limited (Kampala, Uganda)—This organization aims both to prevent and remove ghost gear from Lake Victoria in Uganda by working with the local community. Their project goals include:

  • Removing and preventing ghost gear in Lake Victoria by identifying hotspots, organizing monthly cleanups and running workshops with the aim of removing at least 2000 pounds of gear per year.
  • Developing infrastructure necessary to collect and properly dispose of waste gear.
  • Researching recycling opportunities, piloting net recycling methods and designing a recycling strategy for Kampala and the surrounding fishing communities.

Discarded fishing gear and other plastic debris at the shores of Lake Victoria at Ggaba landing site before recovery by Uganda Junior Rangers
© Uganda Junior Rangers

Additional Small Grant Recipients

Emerald Sea Protection Society (British Columbia, Canada)—What began as a small, self-funded organization founded by commercial divers and marine surveyors has quickly grown to a leading public and private partner addressing ghost gear off the Pacific Coast in Canada. Their project aims to expand their ghost gear removal capacity and raise awareness for their work by:

  • Acquiring additional specialized equipment required for gear and marine debris removal.
  • Removing an estimated 25,000 pounds of derelict predator net from a location near Port Hardy, British Columbia.
  • Expanding and developing their media, communication and educational resources

Mare Nostrum (Constanta, Romania) )—An environmental NGO based in Romania, Mare Nostrum centers on sustainable development education, conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity, natural resource management and urban management policy. Their project Net Free Black Sea focuses on:

  • Removing at least 1000 kilograms of ghost gear from at least two hot spots between Cap Midia and Vama Veche.
  • Connecting relevant stakeholders, including local government, communities, industry and academia.
  • Raising awareness of the social, economic, and environmental damage caused by ghost gear in the Black Sea.

Patuakhali Science and Technology University (Patuakhali, Bangladesh)—This academic program is focused on research, training and entrepreneurial development for undergraduate and postgraduate programs. The university aims to pioneer a ghost gear study in the Bay of Bengal with the following goals:

  • Assessing the status of ghost gear in the Southern coastal area of Bangladesh.
  • Identifying the current knowledge, practices, and attitudes on ghost gear by fishers in the region.
  • Building awareness and capacity for fishers to prevent ghost gear in the region.

Sea Mammal Education Learning Technology Society (Washington, United States)—Also known by the acronym SMELTS, this organization is focused on the research and development of technology to reduce harm in interactions between humans and marine life. This project employs their ropeless lift bag technology to remove marine debris and rescue anchored whales and includes:

  • Building two acoustically controlled lifting engines for marine debris recovery and animal rescue.
  • Partnering with the Center for Coastal Studies’ Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) and commercial lobsterman Rob Martin to test their technology.
  • Using and sharing all data collected with the international GGGI community.

Stichting Ghost Diving (Zuid-Holland, Netherlands)—Founded in 2012 by technical divers specializing in the removal of ghost gear and marine debris, Ghost Diving is the largest and most experienced global diving organization focused on tackling ALDFG. Their project, Coasts Untangled, conducts ghost gear surveys along the Greek coast by:

  • Hosting workshops with Ghost Diving Greece and local stakeholders in fishing and coastal management to find areas most impacted by ALDFGs and share knowledge.
  • Conducting aerial surveys of areas of interest across approximately 25 km2 of costal marine habitat.
  • Running field tests on machine-learning algorithms to detect ghost gear using aerial imagery.
  • Contributing to GGGI data.

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