Supporting the prevention of gear loss and ghost fishing

“Ghost gear” is fishing gear that has been abandoned, lost or discarded in the ocean.

Fisheries certified to the MSC Fisheries Standard should minimise gear loss and must know the impact any lost gear could have on marine life. 

Improving our standard

Our Standards include criteria for assessing how fisheries are preventing ghost fishing. These criteria assess ghost gear impacts indirectly. Concerns have been raised by both the MSC and stakeholders that the implicit way current criteria handle this issue does not encourage fisheries to adopt effective strategies to prevent gear loss and ghost fishing. It could also lead to inconsistent assessment outcomes.

We want to make sure that Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) are assessing the impact of ghost fishing on marine life consistently and correctly. We therefore want to clarify the requirements for ghost fishing within the MSC Fisheries Standard.

In recent years there have been advances in best practice management, such as the release of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) voluntary guidelines on marking fishing gear to reduce the risk of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear. We aim to align the requirements in the Fisheries Standard with the latest in best practice management, with a focus on gear loss avoidance strategies and mitigation actions in MSC certified fisheries.


Progress so far

We have held workshops with assessors on how existing fishery assessments consider the impact of ghost gear and mitigation. Consultation with our stakeholders at international events has also increased our understanding of how ghost gear is currently being assessed and how best practice is evolving.

We also carried out benchmarking exercises to identify methods of best practice that are currently being implemented or developed by other global sustainability organisations, such as the FAO, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

We also investigated best practice as used by different regional and national fishery authorities and that being developed by NGO initiatives (e.g. through the Global Ghost Gear Initiative), including methods featured in other fishery standards.


How could the standard change?


The changes proposed in the review could lead to a change in intent of the MSC Fisheries Standard. This means there could be changes to outcomes delivered by changes in requirements.

In practice, this may mean fisheries will have to demonstrate how they are reducing the impact of gear loss and ghost fishing. The improvement options proposed could increase the rigour with which fisheries are assessed in terms of ghost gear, and lead to increased transparency in the assessment process. We will ensure that assessors have the tools and guidance they need to effectively assess a fishery.

We will consult further with stakeholders to explore different improvement options and to ensure that the changes proposed are practical and effective.


Get involved

Stakeholders are at the heart of our Fisheries Standard Review, helping identify issues, develop solutions and test the possible impacts of any proposed changes. We are holding a series of stakeholder consultation events in 2020 and 2021 including virtual workshops and online surveys.

In June and July 2020, we held a virtual workshop on ghost gear, and stakeholders were invited to provide further input through out online survey.

To be notified of future activities please sign up for our Fisheries Standard Review update

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