Innovative Startups Tackle Ghost Fishing Gear

Ghost Fishing Gear


Ghost fishing gear is the deadliest form of marine debris as it is specifically designed to trap marine organisms.  This abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear pollutes the ocean, impacts the sustainability of our fisheries and threatens marine animals and the ecosystems they depend on.  Conservative estimates suggest 640,000 to 800,000 tons of fishing gear is lost annually worldwide, which could account for at least 10% of all plastic pollution and perhaps as much as 70% of all macro plastics when estimated by weight in our ocean.

Ghost fishing gear is therefore one of the most pressing problems affecting ocean health today and innovative, scalable solutions are urgently needed to combat it.

Ashored, a Nova Scotia-based oceantech startup, is developing one such solution. Ashored is bringing to market an underwater buoy release system designed for  trap fisheries such as lobster and crab fisheries. This low-cost, acoustically activated ‘ropeless’ fishing system can be retrofitted onto existing traps and allows fishers to station ropes and buoys on the ocean floor until acoustically recalled. This minimizes the risk of marine organism entanglements and vessel collision associated with traditional vertical ropes and surface buoys. Ashored’s buoys use artificial intelligence to collect data and make recommendations, and use geo-tracking to locate lost traps.

Another startup is tackling the problem with the use of Internet of things (IoT) tracking technology. Silicon valley startup Blue Ocean Gear has created high-tech buoys that can track gear in the marine environment, including detecting and locating lost or entangled fishing gear. The buoys also collect a wide variety of data that can be used to help ocean businesses run more efficient and cost-effective operations.

At the other end of problem, companies are giving new life to old gear by recycling fishing gear into useable plastic products. Net Your Problem, a Seattle-based startup, collaborates with fishermen and net manufacturers on responsible waste management and facilitates the recycling of nets, turning them into new plastic products.

The Global Ghost Fishing Initiative, founded in 2015, is the first global collective impact alliance dedicated to tackling the problem of ghost fishing gear at the global scale. The initiative facilitates and collaborates with innovative projects all over the world. The public can get involved with The Global Ghost Gear Initiative’s reporter app,where you can report the location of any ghost gear you come across as well as upload pictures. Fishermen are encouraged to use the app as well. The data feeds in to a global data portal which will help to inform ongoing solutions in the future.

For more innovative solutions to ghost fishing gear, visit our Ocean Business Brain.

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