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Statement: International Maritime Organization Decision to Require Gear Marking Critical in Fight to Eliminate Ghost Gear

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Washington, DC – Today, the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced that a mandatory goal-based requirement for the marking of fishing gear will be developed, a strategy recommended by Ocean Conservancy’s Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) Best Practice Framework and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Voluntary Guidelines for the Marking of Fishing Gear.

“Gear marking is critical to reducing ghost gear, and the GGGI is thrilled with the IMO’s decision to make it mandatory,” said Ingrid Giskes, Senior Director of the GGGI and International Government Relations at Ocean Conservancy. “As the single most harmful form of marine debris, we are glad that steps to reduce ghost gear are being adopted at the international level.”

Gear loss occurs wherever fishing takes place, often due to rough weather, snags beneath the surface, and marine traffic accidentally running it over and cutting it loose. In addition to its lethality, it’s also among the most prevalent forms of ocean plastic pollution: research indicates that ghost fishing gear makes up 46-70% of all floating macroplastics in ocean gyres by weight, and up to a 30% decline in some fish stocks can be attributed to ghost gear.

The GGGI recommends gear marking as an important strategy to mitigate the prevalence of ghost gear as described in the Best Practice Framework. The GGGI works with governments, NGOs and companies around the world to work to eliminate ghost gear and protect the ocean.

The new IMO gear marking mandate will be addressed in MARPOL Annex V, which generally prohibits the discharge of any garbage into the sea, with some limited exceptions. An overview of the MARPOL Annex V discharge provisions can be found here.

Ocean Conservancy and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative will continue to work as part of the Clean Shipping Coalition at the IMO’s Prevention Pollution and Response (PPR) subcommittee to help make draft amendments to MARPOL Annex V and the associated guidelines; and help develop a Circular to the MEPC to promote the use of fishing gear marking systems, internationally recognized guidelines, and technical support documents.

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About the Global Ghost Gear Initiative

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 100 stakeholder groups, including 17 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, mitigate 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 www.ghostgear.org.

About Ocean Conservancy

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

 

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