A great article by Carla Howarth on abc.net.au about a CSIRO study into abandoned and lost commercial fishing gear — or "ghost gear" — has found more than a quarter of all fishing lines wind up in the ocean each year, creating hazards to wildlife.
CSIRO scientists analysing 40 years of data estimate 6 per cent of fishing nets, 9 per cent of pots and traps and 29 per cent of lines are lost globally each year. Researcher and University of Tasmania PhD student Kelsey Richardson said fishing gear could have a wide range of effects on the environment.
"It impacts marine wildlife, including entanglement and ingestion," she said.
"It can also wind up on beaches and fragile coastal environments where it can damage coastal habitats."
Ms Richardson said there was a lot of research about fishing gear loss in the United States and Europe, but it was limited elsewhere.
"Unfortunately there are knowledge gaps in Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America and research should really be prioritised in those areas," she said.
"This data can be used to better understand the amounts of fishing gear losses around the world, particularly in those regions where little research has been undertaken about fishing gear losses."
Marine Photobank: Marine Photobank
Economic and environmental impacts
Conservation group World Animal Protection has previously estimated around 640,000 tonnes of "ghost gear" is left in oceans each year and can stay in the oceans for up to 600 years, trapping animals as large as whales and causing them long and painful deaths.
Just this year, a Californian not-for-profit group called Ocean Voyages Institute removed 40 tonnes of fishing nets during a 25-day expedition from Honolulu to a Pacific Ocean gyre, where currents converge to create massive dump of lost and abandoned gear.
Principal research scientist with CSIRO's Oceans and Atmosphere, Denise Hardesty, said the amount of waste needed to be reduced.