A juvenile Gray whale ist entangled in a lobster trap line off the coast of Mexico

Urging closer working to combat whale entanglement


World Animal Protection is at the International Whaling Commission’s 66th annual meeting, urging closer working with its successful Global Ghost Gear Initiative to protect more whales

Each year, a staggering 640,000 tonnes of lost and abandoned shipping gear is left in our oceans, which traps, injures, mutilates and kills hundreds of thousands of whales and other marine animals. So we welcome the IWC’s shift from regulating commercial hunting to looking at a wider range of threats to whales, including climate change, ship strikes, chemical, noise, plastic pollution and entanglement in fishing gear (also known as ghost gear).

More can be done

Whales can starve to death after swallowing objects or they can be caught and strangled by old nets – also called ‘entanglement’.

We have supported the work of the IWC’s Global Whale Entanglement Response Network over the last few years.

The IWC has taken a practical, hands-on approach to the problem of whale entanglement, as well as having developed a whale welfare framework and action plan highlighting the threats fishing gear causes to marine mammals.

However, we believe more can be done.

Joining forces to move the world

In 2015, we founded the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI). It is a multi-stakeholder alliance uniting the private sector, the fishing industry, scientific researchers, government agencies and NGOs, to work on a common goal - to reduce lost fishing gear blighting our oceans, and to end the immeasurable suffering it causes to marine animals.

We’re calling for the IWC to work in closer partnership with the GGGI to:

  • tackle the issue of marine litter and end the problem of marine mammal entanglement in ghost gear
  • gather global, standardised data on whale entanglements and share this on the new GGGI data portal.

We also hope the IWC will to continue to work with other multilateral agencies such as FAO and UNEP to tackle this global issue.

Better data on hotspots

The GGGI has established an entanglement data portal to better understand ghost gear causes, impacts and trends globally. The evidence gathered will be used to prioritise solutions in ‘hotspot’ areas where ghost gear is a particular problem.

We hope the IWC Scientific Committee will start collecting and sharing data with the GGGI to make good headway on its new, forward-thinking focus on conservation and whale welfare.

Whales surviving in the oceans of today need sensible and urgent decisions to deal growing threats they have to contend with – now and into the future. 

Learn more about our work to rid the world’s oceans of ghost gear. 

Whales surviving in the oceans of today need sensible and urgent decisions to deal growing threats they have to contend with – now and into the future.

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