A Walk Amongst the Ghost Gear: My Personal Encounter with One of the World’s Biggest Pollutants
By Draco Dunphy
As I strolled through lush forest, one bright and sunny day,
I chanced upon a barachois– a pool where river meets the bay.
And much to my confusion, moreover to my dismay,
The beach was covered in fishing gear, the nearest township 15 miles away.
Nets and traps strewn about, and tattered on the shore.
Buoys, ropes and lobster pots, battered, broke and tore.
It leads me to ask, what happened? And, how did this occur?
Well, lend your ear and listen friend, and this topic we’ll explore.
It would seem that I had myself an encounter with what is known as abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) that had washed up on the beach. ALDFG is more commonly known as Ghost Gear, and it was first brought to awareness as a global issue in 1985 at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Committee on Fisheries
It can arise from events ranging from storms & currents to intentional disposal & abandonment, and due to the synthetic materials used in designing modern fishing to withstand the harsh marine environment, ghost gear can last hundreds to thousands of years— breaking into smaller and smaller pieces before ending up as microplastics. Ghost gear has been estimated to constitute between 10-20% of marine litter globally with an approximate 640,000 tonnes entering the ocean every year.
Ghost gear can be more difficult to see than most other forms of plastic waste in the ocean; hence the name, ghost gear. Unfortunately, ghost gear continues to fulfill its purpose in catching marine life even after being abandoned or lost. This phenomenon is called ghost fishing and accounts for 5-30% of harvestable fish being caught worldwide.
Draco is a Mi’kmaw youth from Ktaqamkuk (The Island of Newfoundland), and an interdisciplinary student studying linguistics, economics and public policy at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. Draco is working with CaNOE as an Indigenous Intern in Partnership with the Marine Institute in the Summer of 2022, and he has a deep passion for the land and all of the relations we share creation with.