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A Voice for our Ocean

REPORT: Ocean Conservancy Calls for Fishing Gear Tracking, Loss Reporting, Other Measures Included in Critical Plastics Treaty Negotiation Phase

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Photos and b-roll of ghost gear, courtesy of Ocean Conservancy, can be found HERE.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – From May 29-June 2, the United Nations will host the second formal round of negotiations (INC-2) for an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on plastic pollution. Widely known as the “global plastics treaty,” the agreement aims to curb the global plastic pollution crisis, of which the ocean often bears the brunt; and yet, abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear (ALDFG or “ghost gear”) – a major source of plastic pollution and the deadliest to ocean wildlife – has been largely absent from the conversation. As a UN-accredited negotiating organization advocating for policy solutions to ghost gear worldwide through its Global Ghost Gear Initiative, Ocean Conservancy released a report calling on the United Nations to include strong ghost gear provisions in the agreement before it’s too late.

“We cannot effectively address ocean plastic pollution without acknowledging the prevalence and impact of ghost gear. It is the elephant seal in the room,” said Nicholas Mallos, Ocean Conservancy’s Vice President of Conservation, Ocean Plastics. “We call on every country involved in negotiations to include strong ghost gear provisions in the plastics treaty.”

“Fishing gear is designed to trap and kill marine life, and since the vast majority of fishing gear is made of plastics, lost gear can continue to do so indefinitely. Ghost gear is not only devastating for our ocean, but for the fishers and communities that depend on it for their livelihoods,” said Joel Baziuk, Associate Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Global Ghost Gear Initiative and a 20-year veteran of the Canadian fishing industry.

Historic estimates have suggested that ALDFG makes up 10% of marine litter in the world’s ocean, but recent surveys put this figure much higher, with fishing gear representing 20% of litter found on beaches in the North-East Atlantic and up to 86% of all floating macroplastics in ocean gyres by weight. Globally, an estimated 5.7% of fishing nets, 8.6% of traps and pots, and 29% of fishing lines end up lost or abandoned in the marine environment annually. Ocean Conservancy research has found that ghost gear is the single deadliest form of marine debris, and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that an up to 30% decline in some fish stocks can be attributed to ghost gear.

Despite this, fishing gear was not mentioned in the treaty resolution adopted in March 2022. The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) Secretariat also invited countries to submit written recommendations ahead of INC-2 on objectives, core obligations, means of implementation, and other elements that should be included in the ILBI. So far, the issue of fishing and ghost gear has scantly been mentioned in these submissions. Furthermore, very few countries have any form of regulations related to the management of lost or abandoned gear, and no international agreement for the management of ghost gear exists.

INC-2 is critical to the plastics treaty drafting process because following these negotiations, a document known as a “zero-draft” will be released. The zero-draft will outline the options, scope, structure, control measures, and all other items discussed during the in-person negotiations. Once the zero-draft is released, it becomes very difficult to change or add any new language to it that was not specifically discussed during the in-person meeting happening in Paris. That is why this meeting is so important and why Ocean Conservancy is advocating for the negotiation committee to include ghost gear at this stage.

Ocean Conservancy strongly recommends the following specific provisions be considered in the upcoming negotiations:

  • Fishers and vessel operators should be required to report lost or abandoned fishing gear under no-fault national reporting schemes.
  • Fishing gear marking and loss reporting should be a condition of any authorization to fish.
  • Mandates for gear designers, manufacturers and retailers that ensure gear components have built-in traceability where practical and realistically feasible.
  • Research and development of gear designed to disable itself after control is lost, such as escape hatches in traps and pots and truly marine biodegradable/compostable materials that will break down into biomass, not petroleum-based microplastic.
  • Means for responsible disposal, cleaning and sorting of end-of-life fishing and aquaculture gear, gear found during retrieval projects, and other aquatic litter.
  • Requirement of aquaculture operators to establish plans to minimize infrastructure loss due to extreme weather or other events.
  • Governments should subsidize courses for training and awareness-building for fishers and vessel operators on best practices to avoid gear loss.
  • Businesses should provide an alternate, convenient, less costly means of end-of-life fishing gear disposal to actively incentivize the retrieval of lost nets and their proper disposal.
  • Seafood businesses should require their suppliers to conform with best practices.

Additional details and recommendations can be found in the GGGI’s new report, The Impact of Fishing Gear as a Distinct Source of Marin Plastic Pollution.

Photos and b-roll of ghost gear, courtesy of Ocean Conservancy, can be found HERE

A detailed report on Ocean Conservancy’s Plastics Treaty recommendations can be found HERE.

A fact sheet about ghost gear can be found HERE.

A fact sheet about the ILBI and Ocean Conservancy’s priorities can be found HERE.



Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) is the only cross-sectoral alliance dedicated to solving the problem of abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) – widely referred to as “ghost gear” – around the world. The GGGI brings together more than 150 stakeholder groups, including 20 national governments as well as representatives from civil society, the private sector, public agencies, academia, intergovernmental organizations, and others from across the fishing industry to tackle ghost gear at a global scale. Since its founding in 2015, the GGGI has worked to implement a wide variety of preventative, mitigative and curative approaches to ghost gear, shaping fisheries management policy and building the evidence base around the prevalence and impact of this threat. In 2017, the GGGI developed the Best Practice Framework for the Management of Fishing Gear, which has been adopted by a range of seafood companies and in national and regional marine litter and fisheries management action plans. The GGGI has made meaningful change on the ground in fishing economies and communities, partnering with local fishers to remove ghost gear in places like the Gulf of Maine, Panama City, and Vanuatu. Learn more at

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