World’s biggest seafood companies must address deadly ghost fishing gear
We've released a new report which finds that the world’s 15 biggest seafood companies must do more to combat the abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear which harms millions of animals every year
Ghost gear accounts for 10% of all the debris accumulating in our oceans and is a major threat to marine wildlife.
Global estimates in 2009 found that at least 640,000 tons of ghost gear are added to our oceans every year. This number is likely now even higher.
Compared to all other forms of man-made marine debris, ghost gear poses the most danger to marine animals and is four times more likely to entangle marine life than all other forms of marine debris combined.
An estimated 5 to 30% of the decline in some fish stocks can be attributed to ghost gear, which can take up to 600 years to decompose.
Worryingly, the report shows that 80% of assessed companies do not have a clear position on ghost fishing gear or publicly acknowledge the issue.
Overall lost gear rankings
- Tier 1 – Leader / setting best practice - None
- Tier 2 – Achiever / integral to business strategy - None
- Tier 3 – Improver / established, but work to be done -Thai Union, Tri Marine, Young’s Seafood
- Tier 4 – Engaged / on the agenda, but limited evidence of implementation - Bumble Bee Foods, Dongwon (StarKist)
- Tier 5 – Not engaged / no evidence that ghost gear is on the business agenda - Beaver Street Fisheries, Clearwater Seafoods, Cooke Seafood, East Coast Seafood Group, High Liner Foods, Maruha Nichiro, Nissui, Pacific Seafood Group, Pescanova, Samherji
Two U.S. companies making progress
Thankfully, two major U.S. seafood companies are working to combat he threat of ghost gear. Tri Marine and Trident Seafoods are acting on this threat and putting projects into place to lower the impact of ghost gear from their supply chains.
Tri Marine is collaborating with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) to trial and implement best practices for the use of their biodegradable Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs).
"Tri Marine decided to be a collaborative partner with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative to share our practical experience in fishing and FAD management. We are pleased with the recent World Animal Protection report on ghost gear," said Jonathan Curto, Sustainability Coordinator for Tri Marine
"This participation has been in parallel with continuing steps we have been taking to improve our fishing practices and FAD management. We recognize that there is more work to be done to advance progress towards the GGGI's Best Practice Framework. Our collaboration with the GGGI will continue to help guide our policies as we work to minimize our ecosystem impacts and promote responsible fishing practices for our industry."
Trident has been actively working to collect and transport derelict fishing nets from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, the largest seafood harbor in the US. These end-of-life fishing nets are removed, bundled and transported to Denmark for recycling by GGGI participant Plastix.
Trident was not rated this year for the purposes of this report.
Both of these projects take place in waters known for their biodiversity, and prevent the entanglement of ocean mammals like whales and sea lions.
Breaking down each tier
Only three of the 15 companies achieved “improver” tier 3 status, as they have established policies for the management and handling of their fishing gear:
- Young’s Seafood - the British producer and distributor of frozen, fresh, and chilled seafood, supplying approximately 40% of all the fish eaten in the United Kingdom every year
- Thai Union, which has a global portfolio of popular brands including John West and Chicken of the Sea
- Tri Marine, which supplies tuna and tuna supply-related services to leading tuna brands worldwide.
Bumble Bee Seafoods, North America’s largest branded shelf-stable seafood company, who sell canned and pouched tuna, salmon, sardines and specialty seafood, is a tier 4 company, as is Dongwon, South Korea’s largest seafood company and owner of the StarKist tuna brand. These companies have responsible management of fishing gear on their agendas, but there is limited published evidence of them implementing changes.
The remaining 10 companies -- including Canadian giant High Liner Foods, whose retail branded products are sold throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico under the High Liner, Fisher Boy, Sea Cuisine and C. Wirthy labels -- all sit at the bottom of the ranking in tier 5 and are not engaged or no evidence could be found that they are addressing the damage that lost or abandoned fishing gear can cause.
- The average company score was just 22%
- Less than half of the companies effectively address marine litter, marine pollution or bycatch/entanglement
- Just three companies – Young’s Seafood, Tri Marine and Thai Union -- have established policies on lost and abandoned fishing gear
- Only two companies, Bumble Bee and Clearwater Seafoods, publicly disclose that they have 100% verifiable traceability of their produces and oversight of supply chains
- Only two of the companies, Tri Marine and Young’s Seafood, are a participant of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.
Whales, seals, turtles and other animals are in danger
The prevention of ghost gear is vital. Ghost gear mutilates and kills millions of marine animals every year, including endangered whales, seals, and turtles. In addition, it is also contributing to the ocean’s plastic problem with more that 70% of macroplastics by weight being fishing-related.
“Fishing gear is designed to catch and kill, and when lost or abandoned in the ocean, it’s the most harmful form of marine debris for animals. It’s heartbreaking to know that animals caught in this incredibly durable gear can suffer from debilitating wounds or suffocate or starve to death over a number of months,” said Elizabeth Hogan, U.S. Oceans and Wildlife Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection.
“We hope to see the companies at the bottom of the ranking working hard to improve and rise in the ranking in future years. These companies must remember that consumers demonstrate they care about the welfare of animals when they decide what food brands to purchase. Joining the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) is an important first step companies can take.”
The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) is an alliance founded by World Animal Protection in 2015, dedicated to tackling the problem of ghost fishing gear at a global scale.
The GGGI’s strength lies in the diversity of its participants, including the fishing industry, the private sector, academia, governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. Every participant has a critical role to play to mitigate ghost gear locally globally.
The report clearly demonstrates that companies who join the GGGI perform better at addressing ghost gear in their supply chains as well as contributing to the delivery of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Through the expertise and knowledge of GGGI members, companies can contribute to significantly reducing ghost gear entering our oceans by 2025.
We're working to reduce the suffering caused by ghost gear through our Sea Change campaign.
We work to reduce the volume of ghost gear, remove and recycle such gear, and rescue entangled animals.
Creating the GGGI has been a central part of the Sea Change campaign.