Preventing lost and abandoned fishing gear (ghost fishing)

The MSC aims to reduce ghost fishing by recognising 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

Every few years we review the MSC Standards so they remain relevant. This allows us to incorporate widely accepted new science and fisheries management best practice, as well as improve  implementation and address stakeholder concerns. 

Stakeholders from all sectors are at the heart of our review, helping identify issues, develop solutions and test proposed changes. Find out more about opportunities to get involved in reviewing our Standards.  

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Baby turtle on beach moving towards the water

Endangered, threatened and protected species

The MSC ensures that certified fisheries allow the recovery of any Endangered, Threatened and Protected species.

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A row of boats in the harbour, the clouds reflect on the water

Improving fisheries management

The MSC seeks to reward best practice in fisheries management and to support fisheries that are working to improve their management systems.

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A fishing net hanging over the water

Maintaining fish stocks

Sustainable fish stocks are at the heart of the MSC program. Ensuring that the world’s fish stocks remain healthy is vital for marine ecosystems and global food security.

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