Ghost fishing gear threatening aquatic biodiversity in India

Elsevier, Biological Conservation, Volume 291, March 2024
Gunasekaran K., Mghili B., Bottari T., Mancuso M., Machendiranathan M.

For decades, wildlife has been observed getting entangled in and affected by plastic litter. Despite the increasing annual accumulation of plastic waste in the Indian environment and its potential threat to marine biodiversity, the specific impacts of this litter often go unmeasured in India. Based on a search of social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google), we evaluated the negative impacts of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) on Indian biodiversity. Among the cases posted detailing interaction with anthropogenic litter, 35 species were affected with 144 individuals reported. Of the species entangled in this study, 13 are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered according to the IUCN. Sea turtles, fish and marine mammals were the most reported groups entangled in ALDFG. We also identified birds, land mammals (the Asian elephant), reptiles and invertebrates (crustaceans and sponges). These findings reveal that the majority of entangling litter impacting animals in India is from fishing activity. Five types of materials (fishing nets, rope, monofilament lines, trap and fish hook) accounted for the most (98 %) of entanglements. This study shows that ALDFG are not only a problem for marine species, but also for freshwater species. The presence of ALDFG in aquatic and marine environments contributes to the extinction risk of wildlife in India, which are already threatened by other human activities. There is therefore an urgent necessity to continue building management programs and develop government policies which attempt to protect the aquatic environment from ALDFG.