Entanglement in debris is a more obvious and proven risk to marine life. More than 30,000 cases of entanglement (impacting 243 species) have been reported. Entanglement can cause a slow death through drowning, starvation, strangulation, or cuts and injury that cause infection. Discarded fishing equipment – so-called “ghost gear” inflicts much of the damage to organisms such as turtles, seals, dolphins, sharks and large fish. Studies examining scarring on whales from the Gulf of Maine indicate that more than 80 per cent of right whales and 50 per cent of humpback whales have experienced entanglement in fishing gear. Between 1970 and 2009, more than 300 large whales died as a result of entanglement in the Northwest Atlantic. It’s estimated that more than 14,000 turtles may have died in ghost nets in the waters off Australia between 2005 and 2012. Ghost fishing gear continues to trap and catch species, which can affect higher taxa organisms such as whales.
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Marine Litter Vital Graphics collection
Cartographer: GRID-Arendal and Maphoto/Riccardo Pravettoni