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The international animal welfare non-profit organization, World Animal Protection, just released a new report titled, “Ghosts Beneath the Waves,” which takes a closer look at the impact of ghost gear (lost, abandoned, and discarded fishing gear) and the results are catastrophic.

The report found that the world’s 15 largest seafood companies are responsible for the death of more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals, turtles, and seabirds annually all because of forgotten fishing gear.

At least 640,000 tons of ghost gear end up in our oceans every year, according to global estimates from 2009 (which equals to a ton every minute). This number is likely even higher, World Animal Protection states. 

Of all forms of man-made debris, ghost gear poses the biggest threat to marine life. Thousands of animals are drowned, strangled, or mutilated by ghost gear. Others suffer “a prolonged and painful death, usually suffocating or starving.” It’s estimated that between 5 and 30 percent of the decline in fish stocks is attributed to ghost gear. 

Alessio Viora/Marine Photobank

World Animal Protection points directly to seafood companies as the cause and urges them to address the issue. Two major U.S. seafood companies recognize the threat of ghost gear and are putting projects in place to lower the impact of ghost gear from their supply chains. Still, there are 15 other seafood companies that have yet to take action. 

World Animal Protection is also urging supermarkets to demand that their suppliers buckle down on discarded plastic and nylon nets, lines, and traps, with 50,000 people signing the organization’s petition

Tom Campbell/Marine Photobank

“This is a huge crisis of animal suffering, yet hardly anyone is talking about it,” said World Animal Protection. Horrifically, ghost gear can take 600 years to decompose. In other words, we must do something NOW.

World Animal Protection has a campaign titled Sea Change that works towards reducing the volume of ghost gear, removing and recycling the gear, and rescuing entangled animals. As part of the campaign, the organization founded the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) alliance in 2015, with the goal to tackle the problem of ghost fishing gear on a global scale. There are also many other organizations, as well as everyday citizens thankfully working towards fighting ghost gear. Check out the Sea Change campaign from World Animal Protection and help spread the word.

Considering how seafood companies are directly responsible for the suffering of hundreds of thousands of marine life, please BOYCOTT seafood companies by not eating their products and encourage your friends and family to do the same. You can still enjoy delicious plant-based seafood and in turn, you won’t be contributing to the immense cruelty the seafood industry perpetuates.

We often think that the ocean is its own, independent ecosystem that has little to do with life on land, but the ocean is responsible for about 70 percent of our oxygen and holds a majority of our freshwater stores in ice sheets. Without a broad and diverse variety of marine life, the healthy ocean ecosystem that stabilizes life for the entire planet will disappear. It’s up to all of us to protect the oceans by avoiding seafood at all costs.

To learn more about how our food choices impact the environment, check out the #EatForThePlanet book!


Lead Image Source: Jordi Chias/naturepl.com

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