Preventing lost and abandoned fishing gear (ghost fishing)

The MSC aims to reduce ghost fishing by rewarding fisheries that avoid gear loss and minimise waste.

Ghost gear is fishing gear that has been abandoned, lost or discarded in the ocean. Fishing gear lost at sea can drift and entangle ocean life. Discarded fishing nets can smother coral reefs, while abandoned crab pots can continue trapping marine creatures on the ocean floor. There is also increasing evidence that ghost gear contributes to the problem of marine plastics. 

Although the vast majority of plastic in the ocean comes from people's homes, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that at least 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear is lost each year, and that fishing gear makes up 10% of all marine debris.

The MSC requirements for ghost gear

Fisheries certified to the MSC Fisheries Standard should minimise gear loss and must know the impact any lost gear could have on habitats and ecosystems

Exact requirements regarding ghost fishing are set out within the Fisheries Standard. These are part of wider requirements on certified fisheries to minimise all operational waste.

 

Latest global efforts

Several MSC certified fisheries have found new ways to manage the risk of ghost gear.

When the Alaska Pacific cod fisheries became MSC certified, they were required to monitor gear loss to maintain their certification. They also assessed the impacts of lost gear on ecosystems. These fisheries monitored the impacts and loss of their long lines, pots and trawl nets. Cod fishing pots in these fisheries have biodegradable escape panels and escape rings to minimise ghost fishing.

In the MSC certified Normandy and Jersey lobster fisheries, all pots are tagged with boat registration and year. Fishers must report lost pots and only a limited number of replacement tags are available. This system motivates fishers not to lose their pots.

 

Improving our Standards

We want to strengthen the Fisheries Standard’s alignment with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

We are working with NGOs, fishery managers and scientists to see how we can improve the Fisheries Standard’s requirements around ghost gear. We want our Standard to reflect the current best practice in management of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear.  


What could change?

We want the Standard to be clearer in defining what is accepted global best practice on abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear. That means giving assessors the tools and guidance needed to assess a fishery.

As we work towards possible new guidance, we'll be consulting stakeholders in the industry and environmental experts to find the most effective solutions.

 

When would changes to the Standard happen?

If any part of the Standard is revised, a new version will be released in March 2022.The MSC Board of Trustees will make the final decision on implementation of any change, with the development process set out in the Fisheries Standard Review.

 

Get involved

To be notified when consultation opens, please register your interest in the Fisheries Standard Review. Information about future events, such as targeted consultations and workshops, will also be posted here.

For other questions on abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear requirements please email us at standards@msc.org.

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