As key promoters of the Global Ghost Gear initiative, World Animal Protection (Seas At Risk member) brought together industry, governments and NGOs for a workshop at the European Commission to share expertise on how best to implement this law. Drawing on the Ghost Gear Best Practice Framework for the management of fishing gear, World Animal Protection encouraged an EU approach that is integrated with Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) guidelines and coherent with other European policies.

Objectives of the EU Directive include the establishment of systems to make fishing gear producers liable for the cost of waste collection, transport and end of life treatment, and the creation of new EU standards for gear manufacturing to ensure reusability and recyclability. This scheme is foreseen across Europe by 2025.

Gear classification is a key challenge, with the current fragmented system leading to unrecyclable fishing nets. Similar concerns relate to the potential for a fragmented approach between Member States and the difficulty in competing with global systems that do not have such recycling systems in place. Participants highlighted that implementation will require a framework of legal and policy changes, noting that these concerns should be addressed by the European Commission.

The setting up of these so-called “extended producer responsibility schemes” for fishing gear and recycling systems should follow the example of existing practices in Iceland and Norway. Both countries put in place country-wide infrastructure to collect fishing gear from dedicated collection points and both demonstrate high recycling levels. Stakeholders believe that the EU should build on recycling schemes already available across Europe.

This autumn, the European Commission will launch two studies to assist the Commission in implementation of the law. One study will focus on circular design for fishing gear, while the other will report fishing gear volumes on the market, waste fishing gear collected and passively fished waste.

After working for decades on the impact of lost fishing nets on marine life and ecosystems, World Animal Protection is hopeful that this new law will lead to the gradual elimination of lost gear in European marine waters and – eventually – globally. Everyone, whether fishers, gear producers or governments, has a shared responsibility to alleviate suffering among marine life and to halt this unacceptable wide-scale pollution.