Jun 24th, 2021

Finding a Solution for Abandoned, Lost and Discarded Fishing Gear

The impact that abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) can have on the marine environment is significant. From washing up on beaches, harming reefs, threatening navigation, endangering animals in our oceans and affecting global fish stock levels, ALDFG is a global challenge.

As one of the world’s largest seafood companies, Thai Union is committed to addressing the issue of ALDFG from our supply chains and working to find solutions to remove or prevent plastic pollution from entering the oceans. Since 2018, Thai Union has been part of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), working together to help identify ways to tackle this problem.

Thailand, with one of the world’s largest commercial fishing fleets, is one country where the risks from ALDFG are acute. The fact that the country is among the top 10 in the world responsible for plastic entering the ocean heightens the issue, so it must find ways to accelerate reducing the amount of waste in the marine environment. In line with Thai Union’s efforts to reduce plastic pollution, we have a commitment to improve the management of ALDFG in Thailand. To support this, Thai Union conducted a Thailand Commercial Fishing Sector Survey and Assessment of Abandoned, Lost and Discarded Fishing Gear.

Through the adoption and adaptation of a questionnaire from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), we created a survey to gather relevant data from fishing vessels that supply to Thai Union, with a focus on gear loss rates and causes. Through the survey we also hoped to begin to understand more clearly how we could work with suppliers to reduce the amount of gear loss by recycling them when they reach the end of their life.

The survey was conducted between May 2020 and November 2020, with interviews of 10 suppliers who owned a total of 36 vessels, allowing us to better understand how they operate,how gear is lost, how much gear they lose over time and what happens to end-of-life gear.

Results of the survey indicated that the main causes of gear being lost included:
• Poor weather
• Ocean currents
• Operator error
• Gear damage
• Equipment failure
• Rocky reefs

The answers provided by the respondents indicated that losing gear is costly, which should act as an incentive for fishers to do what they can to extend its lifetime. What was encouraging was discovering that commercial fishermen already have access to collection and recycling facilities for their end-of-life gear. Going forward, there needs to be greater cooperation between fishers and these recycling facilities including the addition of more incentives to encourage fishermen to use these facilities.

You can read the full report, including more details on next steps and key intervention points, here.