Saturday, 30 June 2018

Plastic waste at sea >>> "The problem of ghost nets is larger than imagined"

There are deadly unintended consequences of using fishing nets at sea:

A sea turtle entangled in a ghost net.

Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been left or lost in the ocean by fishermen. These nets, often nearly invisible in the dim light, can be left tangled on a rocky reef or drifting in the open sea. 

They can entangle fish, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, dugongs, crocodiles, seabirds, crabs, and other creatures, including the occasional human diver.[1] Acting as designed, the nets restrict movement, causing starvation, laceration and infection, and suffocation in those that need to return to the surface to breathe.[2]

Ghost net - Wikipedia

It's becoming more of a problem:
Hundreds of sharks and other fish discovered tangled in 'ghost net' drifting through Caribbean Sea | The Independent
The huge 'ghost net' killing dozens of sea creatures in the Caribbean | Daily Mail Online 


Amsterdam, March 29, 2018 

The research team from The Ocean CleanUp has published their report on the amount of plastic waste in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Not only is there much more than initially believed, but it is also accumulating rapidly. Almost half of the weight (more than 46%) appears to consist of abandoned fishing nets, which is not difficult to imagine; large floating ghost nets are several times heavier than individual pieces of floating plastic, and they are made for fishing in the sea.

It is well known that ghost nets and other abandoned fishing gear, such as buoys, contribute significantly to the plastic soup and turn millions of sea creatures into victims. What are large fishing companies doing to prevent their nets from being left behind? World Animal Protection has assessed the fifteen largest fishing companies in the world on this topic and has recently published a report on the findings. The results are shocking. None of the mega-fishing companies researched include the problem of ghost nets in their agenda, and they are certainly not taking action to prevent their nets from ending up in the ocean. Just one company acknowledges the existence of the problem at all; none of the companies report about it.

As long as there is no effective international control system, ships will continue to dump their nets with impunity.

Problem of ghost nets larger than imagined - Plastic Soup Foundation

In other words, it's much more than plastic straws:
Plastic Straws Aren’t the Problem - Bloomberg
Plastic straws aren't clogging oceans - it's old fishing nets, Opinion - THE BUSINESS TIMES 

Trendy bans on plastic straws are bunk


JUN 23, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR – A fashionable global protest movement has nightlife venues scrambling to replace their plastic straws with more sustainable alternatives, such as paper ones, on the theory that doing so will reduce plastic waste in the oceans.

It all sound virtuous, but in reality it’s likely to make matters worse. Straws make up a trifling percentage of the world’s plastic products, and campaigns to eliminate them will not only be ineffective, but could distract from far more useful efforts.

The anti-straw movement took off in 2015, after a video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose went viral. Campaigns soon followed, with activists often citing studies of the growing ocean plastics problem. Intense media interest in the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a floating, France-sized gyre of oceanic plastic — only heightened the concern.

But this well-intentioned campaign assumes that single-use plastics, such as straws and coffee stirrers, have much to do with ocean pollution. And that assumption is based on highly dubious data. Activists and news media often claim that Americans use 500 million plastic straws per day, for example, which sounds awful.

But the source of this figure turns out to be a survey conducted by a 9-year-old. Similarly, two Australian scientists estimate that there are up to 8.3 billion plastic straws scattered on global coastlines.

Yet even if all those straws were suddenly washed into the sea, they’d account for about 0.03 percent of the 8 million metric tons of plastics estimated to enter the oceans in a given year.

In short, skipping a plastic straw won’t make a dent in the garbage patch. So what will?

A recent survey by scientists affiliated with Ocean Cleanup, a group developing technologies to reduce ocean plastic, offers one answer. Using surface samples and aerial surveys, the group determined that at least 46 percent of the plastic in the garbage patch by weight comes from a single product: fishing nets. Other fishing gear makes up a good chunk of the rest.

The impact of this junk goes well beyond pollution. Ghost gear, as it’s sometimes called, goes on fishing long after it’s been abandoned, to the great detriment of marine habitats. In 2013, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science estimated that lost and abandoned crab pots take in 1.25 million blue crabs each year.

This is a complicated problem. But since the early 1990s, there’s been widespread agreement on at least one solution: a system to mark commercial fishing gear, so that the person or company that bought it can be held accountable when it’s abandoned.

Combined with better onshore facilities to dispose of such gear — ideally by recycling — and penalties for dumping at sea, such a system could go a long way toward reducing marine waste. Countries belonging to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization have even agreed on guidelines for the process.

But while rich countries should be able to meet such standards with ease, in the developing world — where waste management is largely informal — the problem is much harder. In Indonesia, for example, one study concluded that fishermen have little incentive to bring someone else’s net to a disposal point unless they get paid.

That’s where all that anti-straw energy could really help. In 1990, after years of consumer pressure, the world’s three largest tuna companies agreed to stop intentionally netting dolphins. Soon after, they introduced a “dolphin safe” certification label and tuna-related dolphin deaths declined precipitously.

A similar campaign to pressure global seafood companies to adopt gear-marking practices — and to help developing regions pay for them — could have an even more profound impact. Energized consumers and activists in rich countries could play a crucial role in such a movement.

That’s a harder sell than trendy anti-straw activism, of course. But unlike those newly virtuous night clubs, it might actually accomplish something useful.

Adam Minter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist based in Asia.

Trendy bans on plastic straws are bunk | The Japan Times

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