Tackle ghost fishing

Published 21.06.2022


Tackle ghost fishing

Observadores del Mar launches new project to tackle ghost fishing

  • Ghost fishing is caused by abandoned or lost fishing gear, which accounts for 70% of the plastics dumped in the ocean each year.
  • A coordinated action network in the Mediterranean will focus on gathering information and removing these devices, as well as rescuing trapped sea turtles.
  • The citizen science platform Observadores del Mar (Sea Watchers) will centralise data on ghost fishing sightings.

Every year, 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the ocean. Of this, 70% is abandoned or lost fishing gear, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This fishing gear is responsible for ghost fishing, a problem linked to rudimentary, unregulated, or illegal fishing activities that threaten biodiversity, fishery sustainability, and navigational safety.

To address this threat, research institutions, marine wildlife rescue centres, port authorities, diving centres, and fisher and seafarer associations have set up a coordinated action network in the Western and Central Mediterranean. The network will focus on reporting the problem, gathering information, and removing these dangerous drifting devices, as well as rescuing sea turtles caught in them.

As a central tool for the coordination of this network, the Ghost Fishing project has been launched on the Observadores del Mar, a marine citizen science platform of reference in Spain that integrates citizen data for marine conservation. This data, validated by the scientific team responsible for the project, will be used for the proper management of this scourge in the Mediterranean.

"Abandoned or lost fishing gear is a threat to fisheries, marine wildlife, and safety at sea. We can all help to combat this threat, which is why we are calling on the public to report this problem to Observadores del Mar”, says Ricardo Sagarminaga, head of the scientific team of the Ghost Fishing project and president Alnitak.

The action network is coordinated by Alnitak, Hombre y Territorio, ICTS SOCIB, Equinac, Fundación Palma Aquarium, Save the Med, APERRS, and Carbopesca. In addition, several entities are actively collaborating: NOAA - NMFS, USFWS, Nature Trust Malta, CECAM, CEGMA, ANSE, and Oceancare, among others.

About Observadores del Mar

Observadores del Mar is coordinated by Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) marine research centres [Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM); Blanes Centre for Advanced Studies (CEAB); Meditteranean Institute of Advanced Studies (IMEDEA); Spanish Insitute of Oceanography (IEO); and the Balearic Islands Coastal Ocean Observing and Forecasting System(SOCIB)] with the participation of experts from different national and international research centres. In total, around one hundred scientists are in charge of validating all the information that citizens upload to the platform.

Observadores del Mar is also a partner in the LIFE INTEMARES project, coordinated by the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge. In the Balearic Islands, the platform has an alliance with Marilles Foundation, and in the Canary Islands, it actively collaborates with RedPromar, to strengthen marine citizen science on all the islands.

For more information, please contact

  • Ricardo Sagarminaga, head of the scientific team of the Ghost Fishing project and president of Alnitak: 619108797;
  • Maria Vicioso, Observadores del Mar coordinating team: 626110450;