KARACHI: The abandoned fishing gear is the deadliest trap of plastic debris for marine life and has already driven the vaquita porpoise and other marine mammals to the brink of extinction, WWF-Pakistan said on Tuesday. A new report from WWF says that yet even as this crisis continues to intensify, little attention is being paid to it by governments or industry.
The report, 'Stop Ghost Gear: The most deadly form of marine plastic debris', shines a light on how ghost gear is responsible for harming 66 percent of marine mammal species, half of seabird species and all species of sea turtles, often subjecting them to a slow, painful and inhumane death.
It also damages vital marine habitats such as coral reefs and mangroves and threatens the food sources and livelihoods of coastal communities and fishers, according to the report, which highlights how tackling ghost gear should be at the fore of efforts to combat the global plastic pollution problem.
To create awareness about adverse impacts of ghost gear and share the findings of the report, WWF-Pakistan organized a webinar on Tuesday, 20 October, which was attended by more than 100 students from Karachi and Lasbella universities.
Commenting on the report, WWF-Pakistan DG Hammad Naqi Khan said while the consequences of plastic waste are finally starting to receive the attention they deserve, there's still too little awareness about the catastrophic harm caused by ghost gear.
This needs to change urgently given that it is the most deadly form of marine plastic debris and that it can linger in our oceans for centuries, wreaking havoc like some kind of immortal menace: continuously and cruelly killing whales, dolphins, seals, seabirds, turtles and sharks, and damaging vital ocean habitats.
He further said that the report unveils the impact and the tragic scale of this invisible ocean killer, and how it is linked to the practices of fishers and the fishing industry, as well as making it very clear that the current legal framework on marine plastic pollution and ghost gear is fragmented and ineffective.
This is a global problem, and Pakistan is no exception, which requires coordinated action across the world, which is why WWF urges governments and businesses to support the establishment of a new global UN treaty on plastic pollution that sets out global goals and binding targets for both land- and marine-based plastic pollution, which in turn can help drive robust local regulation of ghost gear.
"We must stop ghost gear from decimating marine life and drowning the ocean we all depend on once and for all," he added. Speaking during the webinar, Muhammad Moazzam Khan, Technical Adviser Fisheries, WWF-Pakistan said that ghost nets have a serious impact on the marine ecosystem. It is one of the major threats to marine life, particularly for endangered species in Pakistani waters.
He shared that to address the issue of abandoned fishing nets, WWF-Pakistan initiated a clean-up drive in ecologically significant areas of Pakistan including Astola Island, Churna Island, Kaio Island and waters around Ormara and Gwadar in 2012.
He also shared that the discarded nets have caused severe damage to lobster fisheries in Malan, Balochistan leading to significant loss of livelihoods to local fisher communities.
According to the report, 5.7 percent of all fishing nets, 8.6 percent of traps and pots, and 29 percent of all fishing lines used globally are lost around the world each year. In the upper Gulf of California, Mexico, illegal and abandoned gillnets have driven the vaquita porpoise to the brink of extinction - only around 10 individuals remain.
Ghost gear damages valuable marine habitats, damaging coral, harming the habitats of sessile animals, damaging vegetation, causing sediment build-up, and impeding access to key ecosystems.
Experts are of the view that ghost gear can act as a navigation hazard, affecting a vessel's propulsion and the ability to maneuver, causing operational delays, economic loss and, in extreme cases, injuries or even the loss of lives of crew members or ferry passengers.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020