Bycatch & Ghostfishing


Fishes are not the only ones caught and killed when fishing. Nets, hooks, and traps catch any animals unlucky enough to be in their path. Bycatch consists of non-target animals who are caught and usually thrown back into the sea, dead or dying. It’s estimated that due to the American consumption of aquatic animals, there are 14 to 32 billion animals caught as bycatch a year. Some estimates say eight percent of total catch is bycatch.


Lost and abandoned fishing gear continues to catch, injure, and kill animals for years. Fishing gear is likely the most dangerous type of plastic pollution. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the world’s largest collection of floating plastic (79,000 metric tons!), is 92% fishing nets and gear. These also break down into microplastics, which is then consumed by aquatic animals as it is mistaken for food.

“Animals who become entangled in heavy fishing gear can drown, die of exhaustion after weeks of struggling to free themselves, or slowly starve to death if the gear is lodged in their mouths and prevents them from eating.”


Discards in the World’s Marine Fisheries: An Update by K. Kelleher, FAO Fisheries Technical Paper #470 (2005).

Worse things happen at sea: the welfare of wild-caught fish by Alison Mood,, (2010).

How many animals does a vegetarian save? by Harish Sethu, Counting Animals (2015).

The real threat to the ocean is the fish on your plate – not the straw in your drink by Elisa Allen, Metro UK (2019).

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Isn’t What You Think it Is by Laura Parker, National Geographic (2018).