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Managing Ghost Gear in Mexico

Expanding our work addressing ghost gear at the local level

Ghost gear in Santa Rosalia_Mulege corridor
© Pablo F. Zambrano

This blog was written by Claudia Cecilia Olimón, the Latin America GGGI Project Coordinator Consultant for Ocean Conservancy. She has more than 12 years working in ocean conservation. Holds a MSc. in Ecosystem Management, a BSc. in Social Communication and a tech. grade in Journalism. Former Coordinator of the Ghost Gear Project resulting in the removal of 1300+ nets from the endangered vaquita habitat in Mexico. Former ED-founder of Pesca ABC, an eco-minded fishers NGO. GGGI is leading the first-ever transboundary program to prevent ghost gear in the coastal waters of the western U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

The North American Net Collection Initiative (NANCI) is the first transboundary initiative to address abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) in the coastal waters of western Mexico, United States and Canada, bringing together local organizations to prevent, mitigate and remediate ghost gear. NANCI was developed by the Global Ghost Gear Initiative® (GGGI) after Mexico became a member in 2020. The goals of NANCI are to develop knowledge of ghost gear in Mexico, facilitate the development of Mexico’s national ghost gear removal strategy, promote the GGGI’s Best Practice Framework for the Management of Fishing Gear, remove ghost gear from critical areas and transform end-of-life gear, among others.

In collaboration with Natural Resources Consultants, NANCI is building a predictive model to identify potential ghost gear hotspots—locations where gear might be lost or accumulating—in the Pacific and Atlantic waters of Mexico. In the coming months, the model will continue to be refined with data from on-the-ground fisher surveys that are being carried out in coastal Mexican states by NANCI’s local partners Pronatura Noroeste, Pronatura System chapters and the Manta Caribbean Project. Once complete, the predictive model will guide the country’s efforts to tackle the issue through the development of a national ghost gear strategy.

“Local fishers’ knowledge methodically gathered along the entire Mexican coastline will help generate a solid base for the design of a national strategy for the removal of abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear, and the prevention of further gear loss in our country,” said Gustavo Danemann, Executive Director of Pronatura Noroeste.

NANCI is facilitating the creation of a national integrated fishing gear management strategy in collaboration with the Mexican Federal Government. Together, they will develop an action plan to prevent, mitigate and remediate ghost gear. The plan will be based on proven strategies from around the world, GGGI’s Best Practices for Gear Management and with consideration for the local social, economic, and environmental context. It will include input and recommendations from dozens of stakeholders in the fisheries and environmental sector who will also participate in strategy design. This strategy will also be discussed with the governments of Canada and the United States to facilitate cross-border collaboration on ghost gear in North America.

In March 2022, the GGGI led our first workshop in Mexico around the Best Practices for Gear Management with participants representing 15 regions across the country from nongovernmental organizations, state and federal governments, the private sector, academia and the fishing industry.  The main objective was to promote and discuss recommendations on the prevention, mitigation, and remediation of ALDFG. The event facilitated knowledge exchange and sharing of experiences with ghost gear in Mexico. The workshop included recommended application of the Best Practice Framework for the Management of Fishing Gear, how to use the Ghost Gear Reporter App, existing efforts by the Mexican government and local partners to tackle ghost gear, and net recycling opportunities. The workshop resulted in a new partnership for the recycling of end-of-life nets between Grupo Pinsa and Bureo inc.Grupo Pinsa is a national leader within the tuna and sardine industries. They agreed to donate 20 tons of end-of-life nets to Bureo and NANCI. The GGGI will hold a similar workshop in Cancun in July 2022 with the aim of gathering new and existing partners from the Gulf of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula.

Examples of work our GGGI partners are doing in Mexico

Bureo:

One of the members of the GGGI and key partner to NANCI, Bureo, a certified B-Corp, developed a report on the feasibility of establishing an end-of-life gear collection hub to process nets from Mexico. This is being established in Ensenada city and the upcycle processing will be done in the Bureo’s new facility in Oxnard, California. Bureo is implementing fishing net recycling schemes in South and Latin America. Their patented “Net Plus” is a third-party verified post-consumer recycled plastic constructed from 100% waste fishnets, which operates through a shared-value model to give back to coastal fishing communities for every kilo of fishing net received. Bureo uses this material in everything from skateboards to winter jackets, building toward a circular economy.

Hagamos Mas:

Santa Rosalia area local partners
© Pablo Curiel

This local organization promotes community engagement and female empowerment. As a recipient of the GGGI Small Grants Award, thanks to the Lenton Parks Foundation, Hagamos Mas will work to detect ALDFG and marine plastic litter (MPL) in sensitive habitats, collect and properly dispose of ALDFG and and create alliances between public and private institutions in the regions of Santa Rosalia and Mulege. They will also empower women from the existing fishers alliance to build awareness of the negative impact of ALDFG and MPL. Hagamos Mas will employ a “weigh and pay” program, offering fishers a system for direct rewards according to weight of end-of-life gear delivered. The results from this program will be collected in the Ghost Gear Reporter App. Hagamos Mas has worked in coordination with Ecologists Without Borders (EcoWb) and the Instituto Superior de Mulegé (ITESME) in Baja California Sur since 2013.

“We are proud to be part of this great initiative and to have the valuable participation of women in creating awareness among fishers and fishing families, because we believe that to achieve a permanent change, we must change our minds. Our strong group of women, mainly wives or relatives of fishers, perfectly know the communities in which we work; they know the work; the habits; and ways of thinking of our fishing people. Woman have become our most valuable allies in this great effort that is expanding more and more, thanks to the support of the GGGI. We can assure that with their support we will be able to educate and collect fishing gear that has been abandoned on the shores, preventing microplastics damaging our species and allowing us to provide information through the Ghost Gear Reporter Application”.

– Alma Colorado Betanzos, Executive Director of Hagamos Mas.

With this first transboundary GGGI initiative, NANCI is paving the way for on the ground operations in Latin America. The GGGI is excited to support the expansion of ghost gear actions in Mexico and looks forward to the future of the NANCI as well as that of all the local partners.

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