NOAA Office of General Counsel International Section, Derelict Fishing Gear

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Brown boobies on marine debris.
Photo 17: Brown boobies on marine debris.
(NOAA Photo Library.)

One important component of marine debris is derelict fishing gear or DFG. Years ago, fishing nets and gear made of natural fibers were replaced with synthetic materials such as nylon, polyethylene, and polypropylene. Unlike the natural fiber, synthetic fishing gear is nearly impervious degradation and, even if lost, abandoned, or discarded, can remain in the marine environment causing persistent damage. The adverse impacts of DFG include destruction of habitat, "ghost fishing" (the unintentional trapping of animals in a lost, abandoned, or discarded gear), introduction of invasive species, hazards to navigation and safety of life at sea, and entanglement and mortality of protected and endangered species. Due to oceanic currents and other factors, DFG can travel significant distances and affect resources far from where it was originally lost, abandoned, or discarded.

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