YRE Competition 2022
1st Place - Article
19-25 years old

By Youssra elkhadiri - Hiba Amrani Mastari - oumaima stik - siham lomiri - mohamed tafala - wissal moutik

Climate change and uncontrolled human activity accelerate the deterioration of biodiversity and sustainability in eastern Morocco.

With an area spanning over 3,000,000 hectares, the wetlands of the Moulouya River stretch across eastern Morocco. Owing to the river and its biodiversity, the area is, since 2005, ranked among the world's top wetlands by Ramsar Convention. This biodiversity is more than ever endangered by climate change and human activity. The Moulouya and its surrounding wetlands are in pain, so what can be done to save whatever is left before it's too late?

Examination of the climate changes effects on the Moulouya River wetlands.

All along the coastal road (50 km) between Nador and Ras El Maa (eastern Morocco), a yellow veil of red dust and desert sand covers the countryside. This is a year of exceptional drought not seen by Morocco since the nineteen-eighties. Drought is a major cause of climate change, and the region of Moulouya and its river are among the hardest hit by it.

 On arriving at the Moulouya, we encountered laborers of modest means, moving water along the banks of the river to help it reach the outlet. Moulouya for the second time in its history was unable to reach the Mediterranean. Instead, the sea overflowed, increasing the water salinity. Salinity pervaded all the wells that surround it, causing widespread economic, social and environmental damage. This is one of the domino effects caused by climate change in the region over the years, but not the only one.

Climate is ruthless

 The Maghreb is one of the regions most impacted by climate change, according to UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change findings. The latest data from Morocco's Ministry of Equipment and Water shows the country experienced substantial increase in average annual temperatures since 2001, rising a full point, while the country goes through its third consecutive year of drought.

 The river Moulouya and its surrounding wetlands are not immune to these effects. Official statistics show that rainfall, which feeds the upper reaches of the river and sustains its biodiversity, decreased by 39% and 75% respectively in 2020 and 2022. This means the filling rate of the dam fed by the Moulouya Aquarium is down to 9%, which has multiple impacts.

With much sorrow and sadness, Najeeb Bashiri, head of the Environment and Human Association (based in the nearby city of Berkane), says, "Unfortunately, it is the second time in 50 years that Moulouya has not reached its estuary. Salinity rates are up to 7g/m3 at the estuary, while normal percentages should not exceed 0.5%.

 Bashir adds with great apprehension, "Everything is in jeopardy: thirst knocks on the door of all cities along the river. Many crops were damaged or lost. Thousands of young people and families have lost their livelihoods. Production dropped, and the economic performance of activities depending on the river's water disrupted... Things could get worse unless something is done soon."

Human activity exacerbates the situation

M'hamed, a fisherman in his fifties we met at the Moulouya estuary remembers, "Before, we fished all year round and in abundant quantities. We could meet the needs of our families. Biological rest-periods were imposed to protect fish stocks. Our income suffered a little. Unfortunately, in recent years we are only allowed to fish three months a year. Fish stocks are falling, and some species have become rare."

Mhamed, who supports his wife and five children, tries to make ends meet by doing other seasonal work, and he is not the only one. Even those who used to hunt birds in season, can not do so this year. Numbers of incoming tourists also decreased, as the thermal waters of the Moulouya have dry-up and/or waned.

Interview with a fisherman working at the mouth of the Moulouya River.

These according to an official document of the National Office of Drinking Water and Electricity in Morocco (a government institution) include: a decrease in the productivity of groundwater resources due decreasing rainfall, over-exploitation of groundwater for agriculture, and unrelenting acceleration of demand for drinking water.

Berkane environment department, in whose jurisdiction the river lies, lists some of the reasons behind the degradation of biodiversity in Moulouya. The list includes haphazard construction on riverbanks and the chaotic use of the site by tourists, along with what it refers to as poor governance in the joint and integrated management of the area.

Human activity also includes modern intensive agriculture across the region of Berkane and the plain of Sabra, using up to 80% water resources, and causing considerable pollution. On one hand, outdated irrigation techniques and indiscriminate exploitation of water threaten to dry up aquifers and increase water waste. On the other hand, pesticides and chemical fertilizers pollute the water tables, harm biodiversity of soils, and jeopardize many areas that help ensure ecological balance, including bees.

Summer 2011, death of millions of fish caused by human activities pollution. Photo taken by environmental activists in the region.


According to official Ramsar Convention website data published between 1970 and 2015, wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests at the global level. Economic and environmental sustainability for future generations is at risk.

 Solutions proposed by experts come in many shapes and forms, and the most important one relates to streamlining stakeholders, and ineffectiveness of interventions. Experts suggest creating a national agency for the management of wetlands and the protection of diversity, and the legislative reform of texts governing ecology, provided each ecological problem get legal text that is adapted to its specificities and challenges.

 Legislation and effective coordination through cross-cutting policies and good governance alone are not sufficient. It is essential to activate oversight, tracking and evaluation mechanisms using accurate and up-to-date scientific data, to enable quick and effective measures. This, according to the experts, cannot succeed without a truly participatory approach to decision-making, via involvement of civil society or consultation with the population.

 Our team's journey has ended, and we are all hopeful that the Moulouya River will dive into the Mediterranean once and for all. For this to happen, all should be aware and committed in a transparent manner, as environmental experts emphasize.


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IS THERE PLASTIC IN THE ÖRESUND? (Sweden) Category: Pollution

YRE Competition 2022
3rd Place - Article
15-18 years old

By Lina Persson Giolitti

Plastic is a common and important material in our daily lives. It has many useful features and can help solve many problems and needs. The material is cheap and can for example be used for hospital supplies. However, the way we humans use and consume plastic today is in many cases not sustainable.

Guidance at Råå harbor. Photo: Lina Persson Giolitti

The rain whips against my cold and red cheeks as I walk towards Råå harbor. It is a dark and cold December afternoon. The masts of the sailing boats are whistling and the sea is stormy. I stand behind a fishing shelter to protect myself from the heavy rain.

After a while, I see Thomas Lövström, the manager of Rååbåtarna, a company that runs trips to the pearl of Öresund, the island of Ven, as well as other fishing trips. Lövström greets me to his boat Siam and we sit down in the cold and dark wheelhouse. Outside, the rain is pounding on the boat's small windows. It smells of old wood and tar - just like fishing boats should smell.

– I see a lot of plastic along the beaches when I go out with my boat and not so much out on the ocean. However, there is more plastic than we humans can see. A lot of it is microplastic, and unfortunately many marine animals are affected by it. Not to forget, it also affects us further up in the food chain, says Lövström.

People have generally become more aware of what is thrown into nature. However, there is still room for improvement, but things are moving in the right direction. It's probably a lot about education, learning at an early age that it's wrong to throw plastic into nature. Many preschools also have 'litter picking days' and I think that's a good concept because then the children learn from each other and can spread the word, says Lövström.


All the plastic that ends up in our nature has an impact on the climate, the environment and not to mention all living creatures. Most of the plastic that ends up in the ocean is thrown on land by humans and carried by rain and wind into the ocean. The plastics that end up in the ocean are mostly disposable items. The plastic breaks up into smaller pieces, leaving microplastics in the ocean. It takes a long time for the plastic to decompose and is therefore very dangerous for nature and animals. Compared to a paper bag that takes about 1 month to break down, it takes 10-20 years for a plastic bag to break down into microplastics.

Did you know that:

  • 80% of plastic pollution in the sea comes from land while the remaining 20% comes from fishing and marine activities.

  • 60% of all whales have plastic in their stomach.

  • Every fourth cod fished outside Norway contains plastics.

Source: Greenpeace

– I believe and hope that plastic will decrease in the future given we start reducing our use of it. This is evident in today's society with more use of paper straws and paper bags. When compared to other countries in the world, Sweden is a very clean country. It is honestly frightening to see how much plastic there is in some countries, says Thomas.

- Thirty years ago, I caught a big cod in the Sound and when I filleted it, it had a Donald Duck plastic cup in its stomach. It has also happened that a plastic bag got stuck in the boat's propeller. After those two incidents, I asked myself “where is this world going?”. I could never imagine this to happen because for me the Öresund feels like a clean ocean - but apparently, there is plastic that we do not see or know about either, says Lövström.

Plastic on a beach along Öresund. Photo: Lina Persson Giolitti


– Apart from the plastic, Öresund has become much cleaner. One sign of that is that there have been lots of porpoises this summer. Tuna have also shown up and they are also very large, between 2-3 meters, and can weigh around 400kg. It is incredibly fun to watch because I believe it is a sign of a healthy Öresund. Given this, we also were completely booked during the summer by many families with children. Our industry was one of the few to benefit from the corona pandemic. Fresh air and distance were probably what kept us from getting hit. People enjoyed exploring local places when flights were not heading for warmer climes. However, I would like to emphasize that it is difficult to work in an industry where nature decides. You never know what will happen, Thomas explains.

Thomas Lövström in the wheelhouse of the boat Siam. Photo: Lina Persson Giolitti


One person cannot do everything, but everyone can do something to reduce plastic in nature. Even small actions have a big impact. One of several important things you can do to reduce plastic in the ocean is to recycle it. Even though we Swedes have become much better at sorting waste, there is still a lot of plastic that does not reach the recycling stations and may instead end up in our oceans. Using old plastic to make new plastic is both environmentally friendly and reduces the amount of plastic in the ocean. Our oceans are full of microplastics that are invisible to the naked eye. Microplastics that have been loosened from washing clothes, run down drains and end up in oceans. Therefore, airing and using a cloth can be the most environmentally friendly alternative to washing your clothes. Buying clothes second-hand is also environmentally friendly as it reuses goods, thus saving the manufacturing process and the energy to create new ones. Buying second-hand clothes, therefore, reduces microplastics in the ocean. The first four washes of a new item of clothing is the most environmentally damaging, which does not happen if you buy used clothes.

 The ocean is an important source for our everyday life. Without the ocean, we will not get food from fish, and it will be more difficult to transport goods. It is therefore particularly important that we take care of our ocean and what is thrown into it. Because without a healthy and thriving ocean, our lives will become complicated.


Greenpeace Sverige, Plast i haven: fakta och konsekvenser, published 2021-06-22 https://www.greenpeace.org/sweden/nyheter/47646/plast-i-haven-fakta-och-konsekvenser/?gclid=CjwK CAiAs92MBhAXEiwAXTi25-eL4ud5C6wwU-xQ_en5wF9Qw9c7TF3EzVvO6oGwc5x0AqFy5RqDjBo CiGkQAvD_BwE (taken information: 2021-12-03)

 Håll Sverige rent, Ingenting försvinner- allt finns kvar https://hsr.se/artiklar/nedbrytningstider (taken information: 2021-12-10)

 Naturskyddsföreningen, 9 sätt att slåss mot plasten i haven, published 2021-02-25 https://www.naturskyddsforeningen.se/artiklar/9-satt-att-slass-mot-plasten-i-haven/ (taken information: 2021-12-03)

 Naturskyddsföreningen, plast i havet, published 2021-02-24 https://www.naturskyddsforeningen.se/artiklar/plast-i-havet/ (taken information: 2021-12-06)

 Interview with Thomas Lövström, 1 December 2021


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GREENER PORT-LOUIS FOR A HEALTHIER URBAN HEART (Mauritius) Categories: Pollution, Loss of Biodiversity

YRE Competition 2022
2nd Place - Article
15-18 years old

By Chan Kam Lan Serenza, Dostmohamed Farhana, Gourdin Laeticia, Mannaram Isha, Andriamalala Nissiah, Christine Annaëlle, Latour Maëva, and Sarifan Zakkiyah

Our planet is the only place in the universe where life has evolved. Instead of using natural resources judiciously, humans have depleted them to meet their immediate needs, without thinking about the future. We have to face the fact that not all the inhabitants of our planet can have the same lifestyle as the industrialised countries. It is high time to bring changes and learn to live differently for the sustainability of our Earth. It is not a question of renouncing progress but of reconciling economic and social progress with due respect for nature.

 Everything is speeding up in the capital of Port-Louis, which has witnessed many demographic, social and economic changes. According to a comparison of data from Statistics Mauritius, our country has moved from 1,186,873 inhabitants in the year 2000 to 1,265,740 in 2020. Thanks to the economic development since the 1980s to the present, our standard of living has increased. Under the influence of modernity, Mauritians have moved from traditional houses to concrete habitats. New roads have been built, and buildings have replaced green areas over the years. The density of the population in the capital, human activities and transport have consequently generated a rise in temperature.  

The centre of Port-Louis is not immune to global warming.

Vegetation is very important in the heart of our capital city, which is threatened by air pollution and global warming. By increasing green spaces such as roadside verges, gardens and trees, we will not only increase recreational spaces but also improve the living conditions and the environment of Port Louis. Following the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report, it was recognised that the well-being of our societies is directly dependent on nature when it is left to function in a free and uninterrupted mode. Besides, green spaces regulate certain environmental problems. For example, the leaves of trees bind dust and particles from diesel combustion. Trees also store carbon, cultivated or bare surfaces allow rainwater to infiltrate, and the presence of insects helps with pollination, and to get fruits and seeds.

In addition, a line of trees can lower the temperature of a street by three degrees, and in the context of climate change, this role becomes even more crucial. By increasing the number of spots for plants and animals, a minimum of biodiversity can be established. Plants attract insects, which in turn provide food for birds that sow seeds and help other plants to grow. In this way, the food chains necessary for the functioning of ecosystems are reconstructed. 

In Port Louis, a private company is working with an NGO - Friends of the Environment - which has embarked on a reforestation project on the slopes of La Citadelle, a hill in the heart of the capital. In order to restore the original endemic and indigenous flora of the mountain, a study was first conducted to trace the plant species that were there, explains Jayaneesh Namah, coordinator of the Citadelle Native Re-vegetation Project. The organisation has already reintroduced 14 plant species on the northern flank namely, Bois Clou, Palmiste Bouteille, Bois Reinette, Bois Judas, Bois Bœuf, Bois Cabri, Latanier Bleu, Barleria, Bois Chandelle, Vétiver Indigène, Aloe Endémique, Bois Mapou and Pandanus, taking into account their ability to withstand the arid climate of Port Louis. From 2016 to 2020, FOE was able to plant approximately 5,890 trees and more than 1700 eco-citizens participated in the project. This green space in the capital has become a real biodiversity relay that stabilises the functioning of ecosystems.  

Dumping of electric appliances (here a retired rice cooker) cause severe damage and disequilibrium to nature and plants.

To maintain biodiversity in the heart of the city, it is important to create a more or less continuous green chain. Private, public or company gardens could be the links in this ecological chain. Port-Louis should impose environmental measures and injunctions in urban planning projects. More green spaces on the roofs of buildings, plant walls and gardens instead of concrete courtyards should be considered.  

Plants and flower garden on top of a building in the heart of the capital to reduce the temperature stored on the roof.

According to research, the temperature at the top of a building can reach 50°C in the middle of summer, but with the gardens, it drops to 30°C, thus limiting the use of air conditioning on the top floors.  

By planting in our garden, we could revive forgotten local fruits - Carambola, Corossol, Jamalac among others. By choosing more hardy species that are better adapted to their environment, we would use less pesticides. Natural fertilisers, such as composting household waste to improve soil fertility in the long term, are an option. We could also equip ourselves with a rainwater harvesting system for watering. In this way, we would consume more ecologically because it would lead to less transport, packaging and therefore less waste and pollution. The transport of imported fruits and vegetables requires energy expenditure which increases pollution and contributes to climate change. 

In Port-Louis, natural areas are continually giving way to artificial land. Our capital is not immune to various forms of pollution, global warming and loss of biodiversity. By 2030, we (city officials, citizens and elected representatives) need to recreate Port Louis. It is not only knowledge or laws that will help us preserve the environment, but also education. Practising the solutions proposed above could help us to achieve several goals (including SDGs 3, 11, 12, 13 and 15). However, the solutions are never simple to implement because of the consequences on our lifestyles. We must therefore remember that "We do not inherit the Earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children." - (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry).  


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YRE Competition 2022
1st Place - Article
15-18 years old

By: Roze Aleksa Bogdane

Electronic cigarettes are now very popular among young people and have become an attribute of style. They are sold with different liquids that give the smoke different flavours, and the smell is pleasant, so parents often do not realize that their child smokes. Some people believe that the amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes is insignificant and does not cause addiction or affect the environment. Rarely does anyone think about waste from used cigarettes. Is it really "smoke without a fire"? Are e-cigarettes just an innocent form of entertainment?

Photo: Roze Aleksa Bogdane

There are various types of electronic cigarettes and they function in different ways - there are refillable tobacco heaters, but disposable vapes are the most popular. The information on the packaging states that the product contains up to 450 inhalations, which manufacturers equate to one pack of 20 cigarettes. The packaging also states that the empty cartridge must not be disposed in household waste but in the appropriate collecting containers.

Gateway to smoking

Although Latvian and European Union legislation prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to persons under the age of 18 [1], they are relatively easy to obtain because they can be purchased online or from adult friends. In a survey on electronic cigarette usage habits among young people in Latvia 78 out of 130 respondents were under the age of 18, but 26 of them already use or have used e-cigarettes. The data show a high prevalence among adolescents - a lot of them use, have used or use e-cigarettes in the company of friends. Only nine of the youngsters said that they dispose of empty cartridges at the collecting points. [2]

Infogram: Roze Aleksa Bogdane, Data on the use of e-cigarettes for respondents under 18 years

A study done by the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control also shows that in 2019, a total of 51.3% of 13–15-year-olds have tried electronic cigarettes. The proportion of those who have tried to use has increased significantly since 2011, especially for boys and 15-year-olds from 24% in 2011 to 61.6% in 2019. [3] 

A similar situation is also in other countries e.g., in the United States of America (USA). According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 2017 and 2018, the use of e-cigarettes in the USA among high school students increased by 48% which made the CDC call it an "epidemic". Several states have now banned flavoured e-cigarettes altogether.[4]

On April 16, 2021, Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks published an opinion on e-cigarettes, stating that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking, especially for young people. There is strong evidence that nicotine in e-cigarette liquids is associated with the development of addiction, but the flavours have a significant effect on making e-cigarettes more attractive.[5] 

Are they less harmful than regular cigarettes?

48% of respondents in the survey admit that they are not aware of the e-cigarette impact on the environment. Individual respondents consider e-cigarettes safer than traditional nicotine cigarettes.[2]

Environmental scientist and chemist Jana Simanovska says: "The end of cigarettes consists of cellulose acetate, which degrades in the environment from one up to 10 years. They contain a variety of toxic substances that are toxic to living organisms that encounter them. Do vapes seem to be an alternative? Not at all. They are also thrown into the environment, but now there is also a toxic battery, environmentally harmful metals and plastics that will not degrade during our lifetime and will pollute the environment for much longer."[6]

Jana Simanovska points out that the CDC study warns of the dangers of e-cigarettes, especially for teenagers, as they permit users to take in unlimited amounts of nicotine. In addition, to make the smoke more pleasant, they contain a whole bouquet of fragrances, the dangers of which we know little about.[6]. "People just need to know that they're inhaling a very complex mixture of chemicals when they vape. And for a lot of these compounds, we have no idea what they are. I have a problem with how vaping is being marketed as healthier than smoking cigarettes. In my opinion, we are just not at the point when we can really say that." [7] 

Photo: Roze Aleksa Bogdane

Analyzing the impact of e-cigarettes on environmental pollution, Jānis Ulme environmental expert and leader of the My Sea campaign, says that smoking waste is a very topical problem, as it is one of the largest marine pollutants in the world. At present, in addition to cigarette butts, various new smoking wastes from e-cigarettes are appearing with a rapidly growing trend both in Latvia and globally. The hazardous waste contained in disposable e-cigarettes like toxic batteries and liquid residues enters the environment.[8]

These products are becoming popular among adolescents and they are creating a toxic waste stream. And it’s not a trivial amount of waste. We are talking about billions of e-cigarette waste items each year. And that is a global problem, say researchers from the University of California, San Francisco.[9]

 Jānis Žagars, a representative of the Latvian electronic cigarette manufacturer Pro Vape SIA, emphasizes: "We have set a good example compared to other manufacturers of environmentally unwanted products and packaging, as we provide the opportunity to dispose of used products free of charge at sales outlets, thus collecting about 30 % of used products." The company also informs that the waste is further recycled in an environmentally friendly way at its own expense but adds that it will always be the user's responsibility where the used plastic bags, tires or e-cigarettes are being disposed.[10]

Environmental activist Jānis Ulme, on the other hand, highlight that the device contains dozens of different parts, which, due to the small percentage of collection and technically difficult disassembly, are not actually recycled in practice. There are still no fundamental examples of good practice in the world or even long-standing research about the influence of the disposed e-cigarettes.[8]

The smoke of disposable cigarettes 450 breathes costs nature a lot, creates non-recyclable, hazardous waste and promotes disposable consumption.

Jānis Ulme's recommendation for the necessary action is categorical: "Well, in my opinion, in the context of the EU's Plastics Strategy [11], such disposable devices should not be marketed and manufactured at all. However, this seems too dreamy," adds Ulme. "If they are produced and distributed, stricter ecodesign principles should be set so that many fractions can be easily dismantled and recycled after use, and claims for return - at least an individual deposit, when a new one cannot be bought without transferring the previous one. In my opinion, the first answer would be more concrete legislative action to regulate this industry."[8]

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control sets out controls and a set of measures to reduce cigarette and tobacco consumption, such as monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies, education on the danger of tobacco use etc. [12],[13] This is an important agreement for society as a whole, which also applies to e-cigarettes, as the prevalence of smoking is a global problem with serious consequences not only for health but also for the environment.


1. Tabakas izstrādājumu, augu smēķēšanas produktu, elektronisko smēķēšanas ierīču un to šķidrumu aprites likums (likumi.lv)

2. The author's survey in Google Forms 130 respondents, 02.2022.


4. Home | Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education (ucsf.edu)

5. https://ec.europa.eu/health/system/files/2021-04/scheer_o_017_0.pdf

6. Interview in e-mail with Jana Simanovska, dr.sc.ing., leads the society “Ecodesign Competence Center”, 02.02-18.02.2022. 

7. Johns Hopkins researchers find thousands of unknown chemicals in electronic cigarettes | Hub (jhu.edu)

8. Interview in e-mail with Jānis Ulme, the head of the Foundation for Environmental Education Latvia and leader of the My Sea campaign 02.02-18.02.2022.

9. How E-Cigarette Use is Exposing Youth — and the Environment — to Toxic Chemicals | UCSF Science of Caring

10. Personal correspondence in e-mail with Jānis Žagars, Head of marketing Pro Vape / SALT switch, 01.05-05.05.2022.  

11. EUR-Lex - 52018DC0028 - EN - EUR-Lex (europa.eu)

12. PVO vispārējā konvencija par tabakas uzraudzību (likumi.lv)

13. World Health Organization. (‎2019)‎. WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2019: offer help to quit tobacco use. World Health Organization. Available here: https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/326043?locale-attribute=pt& 


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GHOST GEAR (New Zealand) Category: Pollution

YRE Competition 2022
2nd Place - Article
11-14 years old

By Chloe Croft

Every year, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of commercial fishing gear are being abandoned in our ocean. Commercial fishermen have been discarding their nets, pots, lines, traps, and other fishing gear which has been entangling or strangling our marine life and ruining marine habitats. 

In July 2019, Greenpeace reported on research which found that fishing gear from New Zealand commercial fisheries was discovered on a remote Pacific Island, 5,000 kilometres away1. On this particular island, a large proportion of the plastic litter found was from commercial fishing companies, including gear like ropes and buoys, nets, and buckets. Some of these items were still stamped with New Zealand fishery logos.

This shows how far fishing gear pollution can travel with the ocean currents, and how fishing gear pollution has become a worldwide problem. According to Elizabeth Hogan, the U.S. oceans and wildlife campaign manager at World Animal Protection - 640,000 tons of ghost gear is hauled out of the water each year. But some areas are more highly affected than others. In 2016 Elizabeth Hogan reported- One of the biggest areas affected is in Hawaii. “They remove close to 60 tons of gear every single year from the same spot. Since Hawaii doesn’t have a net-fishery, much of this ghost gear travels across the Pacific from those waters where nets are used.”2

The reason this is becoming more of a problem is that the fishing industry worldwide has begun to increasingly use plastic in nets, pots, lines, and ropes, as well as other commercial fishing equipment, over the last two decades. Plastic’s qualities such as durability, buoyancy, and cheapness make it ideal for fishing equipment. Sadly, these same qualities also make the lines and nets a deathly threat to marine life, and the communities around the world that depend on healthy, thriving marine life.

 A lot of Fishermen have been ignoring the cons to this, and have been continuously using these plastic nets. It has become such a problem that “Ghost gear” - meaning abandoned fishing gear- is estimated to make up 10% of ocean plastic pollution but forms the majority of large plastic littering the waters. A study found that as much as 70% (by weight) of macroplastics found floating on the surface of the ocean was fishing-related.

In NZ there are very strict rules about fishing yet fishing gear is either being abandoned here or it is drifting from around the world onto our coasts, strangling our marine life. The sustainability manager for Sealord NZ thinks that discarded fishing gear is not a big problem in New Zealand but discussions with local Hawkes Bay fishermen have a different opinion. Wayne Bicknell of Legasea HB and a recreational fisherman have found that a lot of the fishing gear and other plastic is washing up on NZ shores. Which makes it a threat to seabirds. Wayne says that waste on the beach is mostly fishing nylon and bait packaging. Even though this may not be the outstanding issue in New Zealand right now, it will be soon enough.

 A solution is obvious. We need to make nets, lines, pots, bait packaging, and any other fishing gear biodegradable. Globally, one tonne of new ghost fishing gear is lost or discarded in our oceans every minute. A report on “Ghost Gear” shows that 6% of all nets used, 9% of all traps, and 29% of all longlines remain as pollution at sea3. Not only does this old fishing waste go on killing marine life, but it also seriously damages underwater habitats. If it was biodegradable it would have much less of an effect on the environment.

If making fishing gear biodegradable is too costly or just not a good solution, there are other possible solutions.

 Sealord NZ’s current sustainable process includes using electronic sensors on their fishing nets to monitor the whereabouts of the gear and provide this data to Fisheries NZ. This is a good solution however it is not 100% reliable.

 Hawkes Bay fisherman Karl Warr has a different approach to keeping our marine life safe. The current cage Karl uses is made of stainless steel and it lets under-sized fish swim out of the gaps. It’s a built-in filter for the catch, and it means that more than 90% of the catch is usable.

 The survival rate of trawl-caught fish with a usual net is slim because they are hurt in the process of trawling by the compression in the net. Although the undersized fish are tossed back over the side, they usually float away and die. The cage Karl uses gives him greater control over the things he catches and also means that the fish that have been caught are in better condition and can be sold as higher quality for more money. This benefits Karl and the environment.4

 If we take initiative in the next couple of years we can begin to eliminate this problem before it becomes dangerously big. Keep New Zealand Beautiful!