Ghost Fishing - The Silent Super Killer That Few Talk AboutWhen I founded GlassSipper all the way back in 2014, single-use plastic straws were everywhere. And most people didn’t think twice about using them. As for me, I reluctantly bought plastic straws because my younger son would only drink through a straw and I wasn't aware of any alternatives. By starting to make glass straws in my home studio I was able to clean out all the remaining plastic straws in my house - and offer consumers the perfect alternative to single-use plastic straws!
GlassSipper sales were slow at first. Most people would look at my eco-friendly reusable glass straws and ask two questions. First - “What are those?” And, second, once I explained what they were - “What's wrong with my plastic straw?” Reusable glass drinking straws were not something most people considered using.
Then, in 2015 everything changed. In August of that year, marine biologist Christine Figgener encountered an Oliver Ridley Sea Turtle off the northwest coast of Costa Rica with a plastic straw painfully stuck up its nose. Ms. Figgener filmed her team removing the plastic straw, and overnight the video went viral. Since then over 100 million transfixed Youtube viewers have watched the gut-wrenching video. The footage created a movement committed to doing away with single-use plastic straws once and for all. We wrote a whole blog piece on this. Check it out here.
The new anti-plastic-straw movement promoted many eco-friendly alternatives to plastic, including metal reusable drinking straws, bamboo reusable drinking straws, silicone reusable drinking straws, reusable plastic drinking straws, “compostable” straws, paper straws, and, the best of the bunch - reusable glass drinking straws made out of borosilicate.
However, even though single-use plastic drinking straws are thankfully no longer popular in much of the western world, plastic drinking straws were never one of the worst offenders among ocean plastic polluters. Studies have shown that plastic straws actually made up less than 1% of the plastics ending up in the oceans.
Sadly, despite the progress in eliminating single-use plastic straws, plastics in our oceans remain a massive problem.A mind boggling 12 million tonnes of plastic is dumped in the ocean every year, the equivalent of a garbage truck filled with plastic dumping its load into the ocean every minute (yes, every minute!!!!). One particular type of plastic pollution is especially deadly because it is specifically designed to catch and kill marine wildlife - “ghost fishing gear”. Ghost fishing gear is abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear.
In recent decades, the fishing industry worldwide has shifted to plastic in ropes, nets and lines, as well as an array of other fishing equipment. Plastic is light, buoyant, durable and cheap, making it ideal for fishing. Unfortunately, these same attributes make discarded plastic nets and lines a lethal and constantly growing threat to marine life.
Ghost gear on the ocean floor.
Reportsestimate that every year over 640,000 tons of fishing gear is lost, abandoned or discarded in our oceans - the same weight as 55,000 double-decker buses.The fishing industry produces a whopping 70% (by weight) of macroplastics (in excess of 20cm) in the ocean, and ghost gear constitutes over 10% of ocean plastic pollution overall.
A 40ft x 40ft ghost net is believed to have drifted in the sea for about 100 miles. Trapped inside the net are numerous sharks, fish and other marine life – most had died.
Ghost nets continue to trap fish long after the nets have been abandoned in a process called "ghost fishing".Once discarded, nets and lines can continue annihilating sealife for decades or more, ensnaring everything from small fish and crustaceans to endangered turtles, seabirds, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and even whales.Caught sea creatures die and become “bait”, which attracts scavengers and predators which, in turn, get caught in that same net, producing a perpetual cycle of death.
According to a Greenpeace report, “Spreading throughout the ocean on tides and currents, lost and discarded fishing gear is now drifting to Arctic coastlines, washing up on remote Pacific islands, entangled on coral reefs and littering the deep seafloor.”
Sea turtles are doubly impacted by abandoned fishing gear. When ghost gear washes up on turtle nesting beaches the mother turtles get trapped when arriving to lay their eggs, and newly hatched babies can’t climb over the debris to reach the sea.
Yet, we hear little about this tragic phenomenon. The UK’sGuardiannewspaper recently called out media hypocrisy in condemning single-use plastic while “the most important factor… we talk about least.” Some argue that this silence is due to a reluctance of the mainstream media and those in political power to challenge the powerful commercial fishing industry. … Sounds like we need to intensify the pressure on our governments to impose higher penalties, increase enforcement of safer fishing standards, and provide greater incentives for the fishing industry to clean up its act.
In the meantime, perhaps it’s also time to consider lessening the demand for fish and seafood by cutting back on our own consumption as a way of mitigating the fishing industry’s propensity for creating plastic pollution. Rather than eating so much fish and seafood why not get our aquatic fix in other ways - like enjoying a set of Deep Sea GlassSipper drinking straws! Fully sustainable, and we at GlassSipper can keep making them by the bucket without contaminating or depleting our oceans.