Thank you for contacting me about marine litter, 'ghost' fishing gear and the World Animal Protection campaign.
I have been assured that the Department for the Environment has always been keen to prevent unnecessary deaths among sea creatures as a result of fishing tackle that has been lost or thrown away.
Studies in 2005 suggested that lost or discarded nets, such as gillnets, could cause problems in some waters, although it was hard to tell how often this was actually happening. The Department therefore made sure that new rules were agreed within the European Union to tighten controls on deep sea gillnetting.
This kind of fishing is now limited to depths shallower than 600 metres in many areas of European waters to protect sharks in the deeper sea; shark fishing has also been banned entirely under European law. Both the length of nets and the time it is permissible to leave them unattended have also been limited, to make it less likely they will be lost in the sea and do damage.
After all these controls were introduced a scientific study called 'DEEPCLEAN' was completed in 2009. This was a survey looking for lost nets, covering a very wide area of the sea. The study suggested that 'ghost fishing' is not happening very often in the European waters it covered.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Updated: August 2017