Nature and Biodiversity

Italian divers just rescued a whale caught in ‘ghost’ fishing nets

Divers collect ghost fishing net from the seabed at the village of Stratoni near Halkidiki, Greece, May 18, 2019. Picture taken May 18 2019. Areti Kominou/Ghost Fishing Greece/Handout via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC160899DEE0

Ghost fishing kills many thousands of marine animals every year. Image: REUTERS

Charlotte Edmond
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Nature and Biodiversity?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Nature and Biodiversity is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Nature and Biodiversity

  • Italian divers have freed a sperm whale caught in discarded fishing nets.
  • It is just one of many whales, dolphins, turtles and other marine mammals that get caught in ghost nets each year.
  • Clean-ups are taking place around the world, and it’s hoped education and cooperation across the seafood supply chain will help curb ocean litter.

Just because a net is no longer being used doesn’t mean it can’t continue to catch things. Italian divers have freed a sperm whale entangled in a fishing net off the northern coast of Sicily.

The coastguard was alerted to the stricken mammal by biologists working in a nearby turtle recovery centre. A team of divers was dispatched to cut the whale free, which had a large amount of net and floats wrapped around its tail.

After being freed, the whale swam off, apparently unharmed.

Have you read?

The nets that keep on fishing

The unfortunate whale is just one, very visible, example of the damage discarded fishing gear is doing to the marine environment. Lost or abandoned nets get caught in rocks and coral, and continue to trap wildlife - from fish to turtles, whales and dolphins. This ‘ghost fishing’ often then attracts other scavengers, which get trapped themselves.

Ghost fishing cycle
Ghost fishing cycle. Image: Ghostdiving.org

Each year, more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals and turtles get caught in nets, lines, traps and pots.

It is estimated that somewhere between 600,000 to 800,000 tonnes of discarded fishing gear ends up in our oceans every year. This accounts for a large portion of the plastic waste in marine ecosystems.

Without human intervention and clean-ups, these ghost nets will continue to fish for hundreds of years because they are purposely made from materials which don’t easily break down.

Discover

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the ocean?

Making fishing a circular economy

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative has launched a best-practice framework for managing fishing gear, recommending solutions and approaches across the seafood supply chain, from gear manufacturers to fishers.

Discover

How UpLink is helping to find innovations to solve challenges like this

Other potential solutions include biodegradable fishing gear and designs that promote recycling and incentives to return gear at the end of its life.

Ghost fishing
An estimated 600,000-800,000 tonnes of discarded fishing gear ends up in the ocean every year. Image: Ghost Fishing UK

But illegal fishing remains a block to progress. Illegal boats sometimes dump equipment to avoid detection and fines.

Cleaning up

There are a number of charitable organizations, such as Healthy Seas, which run clean-up operations and collaborate with fishers, fish farms and local communities to help prevent waste nets from ending up at sea.

Elsewhere, companies are working to turn marine waste into useful products once more. Aquafil uses nylon waste from fishing nets to create new yarn for the fashion industry.

Plastix Global recycles discarded plastics to be used in green products including phone cases, furniture and kayaks. And Bureo transforms discarded nets into sunglasses and skateboards.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

4 steps to jumpstart your mangrove investment journey

Whitney Johnston and Estelle Winkleman

June 20, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum