Abandoned and lost fishing gear is having a serious impact on the marine environment according to a new report jointly produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The report found that ocean debris is mounting and the consequences of dumping fishing gear and other garbage into the ocean is starting to have lethal consequences for marine life and seabirds.

According to the study, the problem of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear, is getting worse due to the increased scale of global fishing operations and the introduction of highly durable fishing gear made of long-lasting synthetic materials.

It is estimated that abandoned or lost fishing gear makes up 10% (640,000 tons) of all marine litter.

Discarded nets, traps and pots continue to catch birds, fish, and marine mammals, crabs and other sea creatures, and this phenomena is known as a 'ghost fishing'.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said:" There are many 'ghosts in the marine environment machine' from overfishing and acidification linked with greenhouse gases to the rise in de-oxygenated 'dead zones' as a result of run off and land-based source of pollution. Abandoned and lost fishing is part of this suite of challenges that must be urgently addressed collectively if the productivity of our oceans and seas is to be maintained for this and future generations… ".

Marine debris continues to be a serious problem with more than 6.4 million tons entering the oceans each year, an estimated 5.6 million tons (88%) come from merchant shipping. Some 8 million items of marine litter are thought to enter the oceans and seas every day, about 5 million (63%) tons of which are solid waste thrown overboard or lost from ships.

"The amount of fishing gear remaining in the marine environment will continue to accumulate and the impacts on marine ecosystems will continue to get worse if the international community doesn't take effective steps to deal with the problem of marine debris as a whole. Strategies for addressing the problem must occur on multiple fronts, including prevention, mitigation, and curative measures," said Ichiro Nomura, FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture.

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