World Oceans Day is a reason to celebrate and reflect

The oceans. They link us together, provide most of the oxygen that we breathe and regulate our climate.  They are also home to many marine animals like seals, whales, turtles and fish. But their home and survival are increasingly under assault from ocean acidification, over-fishing and marine debris.

It is estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050, according to the World Economic Forum.  Consumer and single-use plastics are often identified as the culprit but lost and abandoned fishing gear (‘ghost gear’) is also a major contributor to the plastic pollution engulfing our oceans. Like consumer plastic waste, ghost gear can also degrade into microplastics that end up being consumed by fish and other marine life, making its way into the food chain and onto our plate.

In fact, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), estimates that 640,000 tons of ghost gear ends up in our oceans each year. Marine animals can suffer a slow and painful death when caught in lines and nets, sometimes drowning, other times succumbing to painful injuries.

This is why World Oceans Day, acknowledged every year on June 8, is so important. It’s an opportunity to remind people about the critical role of our oceans and encourage everyone worldwide to take action to protect them.

And there is hope. In 2014, World Animal Protection founded the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), an international platform to address the causes of ghost gear and develop solutions. To date, the GGGI has over 100 participants including NGOs, private sector and governments. Last fall, Canada became a signatory to the GGGI, committing to the GGGI’s aims of protecting marine animals from harm and safeguarding human health and livelihoods. Canada is acting on its promise.

“Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) continues to show leadership in managing lost, abandoned or otherwise discarded fishing gear. We are expanding mandatory reporting requirements for lost gear to additional commercial fisheries and added a new requirement to report any found gear that was previously reported lost. Compiling and mapping this information will allow for targeted efforts to retrieve gear and more robust analysis of ghost gear in Canada,” says Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

World Animal Protection is proud of the accomplishments of our campaign to raise awareness about the ghost gear issue and grow the GGGI into a globally recognized platform to tackle the problem, but we know there is still much more work to do. Here in Canada, it is important we not lose momentum.

Lynn Kavanagh, Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection, says, “World Oceans Day is a time to acknowledge how vital our oceans are to our survival and the life of countless animals. We can all play our part in protecting this essential lifeforce, whether it’s curbing our own personal plastic consumption, or the fishing industry adopting best practices for fishing gear management.”

World Oceans Day was first proposed by the Canadian government in 1992 and has since been proclaimed by the United Nations.

Visit: worldanimalprotection.ca  to learn more about our successes tackling ghost gear.

Photo: Ghost gear is killing our marine life and contributing greatly to the ocean’s plastic problem, with more than 70% of microplastics by weight being fishing related. Pictured: a sea lion tangled in a gill net off the coast of California. Country: USA Credit Line: Kanna Jones / Marine Photobank Date: 30/7/2009 (CNW Group/World Animal Protection).

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