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Litter and plastic in the oceans affect marine animals

Many times, we are confronted with images that show sea life trapped in man-made litter.

It’s not surprising that the UN has just released a report showing a 23% increase of marine debris-affected species in four years.

It is clear that this environmental crisis is growing, and Sea Change is a campaign to do our part.

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Plastic pollution is affecting the marine environment in a way that is not only becoming more evident, but also bottle caps and bags. A UN report revealed that litter in the oceans has negatively affected more than 800 species of animals, an increase of almost a quarter since 2012.

To see the extent of marine debris, you only have to walk along a beach in any part of the world. This litter is not only an eyesore, but it can also be deadly for marine animals. A large portion of marine debris, mainly nets, lines, ropes and traps, is lost or abandoned fishing equipment. These are made from strong plastic materials and ended up in the ocean for a variety of reasons.

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Ghost gear cleaned up on a UK beach

These floating ghost gears can be difficult to find and even more challenging to get rid of. Old fishing gear can build up over time and pose a threat to wildlife for many years.

According to UN research, 40% of dolphins, whales, and porpoises are affected by ingestion of marine debris. 44% of seabird species are also affected. Others are subject to distressing entanglement, and unfortunately, sometimes death.

The Impact of plastic debris on local livelihoods

While the impact on animals is alarming, the report also highlights how marine debris affects economies and livelihoods. Communities that depend on the marine environment to support their livelihoods often resort to tourism or fishing, face significant risks from costly cleanups of ghost gear, damaged vessels, and lost or contaminated catch.

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Global Ghost Gear Initiative: Creating Change

Through the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), we are collaborating with NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations), academics, governments and policy-makers. We are collaborating with NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations) to develop vital research and take tangible actions that will benefit the environment, animals, livelihoods, and the oceans.

In preparation for World Oceans Day, June 8, we have been working closely with UN Member States to highlight the urgent actions that countries must take to eliminate ghost gear. The first global gathering will ask countries to pledge concrete steps to reduce marine litter, including ghost gear, by 2025.

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For lasting change, we must all work together

Global GGGI participants developed solutions projects and policies over the past year. It is a systemic shift in the management of fishing gear and practical guidance on the marking and handling of fishing gear to reduce the real risk of gear abandonment or loss. So that communities can find value in ‘waste’ resources, the focus is on reducing, removing and, where feasible, recycling.

This is a collaborative effort. GGGI participants work together to encourage responsible behavior, increase awareness about the issue, and offer opportunities for ocean cleanup.

The staggering $13billion figure for marine pollution is clear. It’s evident that multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the GGGI are needed to stop the rise of plastic waste.

Everyone has a part to play in raising awareness about the devastating effects this threat has on wildlife and livelihoods. This will help to bring about the massive change needed to reverse the tides.

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