What is Ghost Fishing?

We’ve seen images of pollution in our ocean, the famous seahorse and the cotton bud photograph truly was a image with a thousand words (of shock). Wildlife and human living meeting in a place where they don’t belong together. Ghost Fishing is a major a problem for aquatic life, this is when items such as nets, lines and hooks are left behind in the ocean.

Warning: Some images below may be upsetting but they need to be seen in order for change to happen. I’ve purposely used a image of no wildlife for the header image as I don’t want to upset anyone with a warning.

Recently a tractor had to brought on to a beach in Cornwall to drag away a ghost net that took 15 people to move. If it took 15 grown adults to drag a net along a beach how are turtles, crabs and fish meant to escape a ghost net once trapped. Thankfully it was taken away to be recycled but if this is just one net that managed to make it to shore, how many remain in our ocean?

ghost fishing turtle
Turtle caught in a discarded fishing net.

This is not a new issue. ABC published an article online in 2017 emphasising the problem and that we needed to act now. Nearly 2 years later and thousands more marine animals have been murdered since. We know overfishing is already a global problem, yet the fishing industry are killing more animals by littering the ocean.

Ghost Fishing Statistics:

  • 30% off all fish are caught in ghost nets – Not to be eaten, caught and left to die with no escape.
  • Approximately 640,000 tonnes of debris are caught in ghost nets.
  • The number of marine life caught in ghost nets is only rising.
  • It is believed 10% of ocean plastic is nylon fishing nets.
  • It is estimated over 600,000 tonnes of fishing gear is left in our ocean.
  • In May 2016 the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) recovered 10 tonnes of abandoned fishing nets.


ghost fishing seals
Seals caught in a ghost net.


In dim light or darkness these nets are invisible to see, they can get caught or rocks or left drifting in the water. Impossible for marine wildlife to see as they swim. It’s not just in the ocean that is the issue too, they wash up on land and trap animals on the beach.


Turtle caught in net
Turtle trapped in a net on the beach.


What can we do?

We can pressure our government authorities to make the fishing industry take responsibility for their fishing gear. Whether this is GPS tracking or tagging their nets so if recovered, they can be prosecuted or other methods.

Another alternative would be the use of biodegradable fishing nets that are available. The nets would natural decompose in water. Coconut fibre nets are available and beginning to be used by some.

We have already forced governments internationally to react to environmental campaigns and we can do this for our marine life. Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign has raised an incredible amount of  awareness and we can continue to put the pressure on. We can all make One Change Now that will have an international impact.


Related blogs:

Overfishing: Facts, effects and solutions.
Ocean Plastic – What can we do today?
Ocean clean up – Fuerteventura.

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