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Fast food chains told to tackle ghost gear

working_with_abandoned_nets_0World Animal Protection and the United Nations are calling upon fast food restaurants to clean up their supply chains in order to tackle the costly environmental and business effects of ghost gear.

Every year, over one hundred thousand whales, dolphins, seals and turtles are caught in ‘ghost gear’ – abandoned, lost and discarded fishing nets, lines and traps which can take up to 600 years to decompose. The vast majority of this gear is made of plastics that take centuries to degrade, with 640,000 tonnes of fishing equipment left in oceans each year – the equivalent of 52,000 London double decker buses.

Speaking to Inside Retail, Ingrid Giskes, head of World Animal Protection’s Sea Change campaign said food chains need to do more to mitigate the effects of their supply chains.

“We believe ghost gear is an issue which retailers should be aware of – it ultimately impacts on their costs and the sustainability of doing business if fish stocks decline, there is an environment impact and hundreds of thousands of marine animals are injured or die every year.”

Commenting on whether there was a business case or incentive to move towards more sustainable practices, Giskes said ghost gear is a costly problem.

“The seafood industry loses millions of dollars in revenue each year to its effects such as decline in fishing stocks, as well as in cleanup costs such as disentangling nets from the propellers of fishing vessels,” she said.

Pointing to new research that estimates one abandoned fishing net could kill almost USD$15,000 worth of fish stocks over 10 years, Giskes said the cost to remove this gear is USD$1,000.

“While we are still working to paint a global picture of this problem, it is estimated that 90 per cent of species caught in ghost gear are of commercial value. For example, the retrieval of 10 per cent derelict crab pots in Virginia yielded additional harvest valued at $21.3 million.”

“What we’d like to see is retail companies, fast food restaurants and fishing industries coming on-board, along with governments,” said Giskes.

“While a fast food restaurant doesn’t seem like an obvious target, when you take into consideration restaurants’ iconic fish meals and burgers, many chains have a strong link to fishing and the capacity to help reduce marine litter.”

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