Plastic straws make up less than 1% of the ocean’s plastic pollution, but did you know that fishing gear accounts for 10%? That’s right, it’s estimated that 640,000 tonnes of waste fishing nets, lines and traps enter our ocean ecosystem every year. It’s called “ghost fishing”, and here’s what we learned about it.
GHOST FISHING 101
Imagine the amount of fishing gear used around the world by the increasing scale of commercial fisheries. Stuff gets abandoned, lost or discarded, causing serious environmental, economic and social impacts.
Before the 50s-60s, fishing nets were commonly made of biodegradable hemp or cotton. But with the invention of synthetic materials, today’s nets can take 600 years to break down, releasing harmful microplastics along the way. Thousands of kilometres of nets are drifting through the sea or stuck on sea beds, and it’s not easy to remove either. They entangle hundreds of thousands of dolphins, seals, whales, turtles, birds, and many more species, inevitably killing them.
The decline in fish stock affects people’s livelihoods who depend on the ocean, as well as the global industry itself costing millions of dollars in losses.
It’s the ocean’s silent killer, hence the term “ghost fishing” or “ghost gear”.
Some gear is lost through currents and storms. Some through poor management of attached anchors and floats. But unfortunately, much is deliberated dumped because it seems the easiest way of disposal or it’s a way for illegal fishing boats to cover themselves up.
SO WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT?
A great, leading initiative to know is World Animal Protection’s Global Ghost Gear Initiative. The organisation sets up preventive measures with seafood supplies chains, as well as removing, reusing and recycling programs - some gear can be turned into electricity!
And it takes a “global” effort indeed. The United Nation’s 2015 Sustainable Development Goals established 17 global targets, where Goal 14 calls for a significant reduction of ocean pollution of all kinds by 2025. Governments, businesses and people are encouraged to act.
As a business, AWAKE’s driving motor is innovation in sustainability. In response to ocean pollution, in early 2019 we worked hard for more than six months to create a world-first: a watch made out of recycled fishing nets.
MEET ‘THE G7’
Beautiful, light, and durable - ‘The G7’ watch was specially created for the prestigious 2019 G7 Summit as a gift to each world leader. There, French President Emmanuel Macron presented Awake to the world as a symbol of French innovation and the way of the sustainable future.
Nets used to create the watch case are collected from the North Sea area, then cleaned and repurposed into pellets in Denmark. The watch is also solar-powered like the rest of our collections. One of our team’s biggest feats.
In exciting news, we’re launching ‘The G7’ to the public end of November so mark that date down. We’re also working on new recycling locations, starting with France and Vietnam in 2020. Stay tuned and come along with us on our journey by email at the right bottom of this page.