‘Ghost Fishing’ is what fishing gear does when it has been lost, dumped or abandoned. Imagine a fishing net that gets snagged on a reef or a wreck and gets detached from the fishing vessel. Nets, long lines, fish traps or any man made contraptions designed to catch fish or marine organisms are considered capable of ghost fishing when unattended, and without anyone profiting from the catches, they are affecting already depleted commercial fish stocks. Caught fish die and in turn attract scavengers which will get caught in that same net, thus creating a vicious circle.
The issue of “ghost fishing” was first brought to the attention of world at the 16th Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries in April 1985. Following debate at COFI, the FAO Secretariat published an in-depth study of the problem.
Lost fishing gear, or so called ‘ghost gear’ are among the greatest killers in our oceans, and not only because of their numbers. Literally hundreds of kilometers of nets and lines get lost every year and due to the nature of the materials used to produce these types of gear, they can and will keep fishing for multiple decades, possibly even for several centuries.