Try to comprehend just how much 55,000 double-decker buses weigh. It's a whole heck of a lot—more than a billion pounds. That's how much commercial fishing gear is abandoned in our oceans each year, according to a new report from Greenpeace on "ghost gear." The gear consists of nets, lines, pots, and traps, which the AFP reports are thought to be discarded or lost in the ocean at an estimated average rate of more than 2,000 pounds a minute. While it's believed ghost gear accounts for about 10% of all ocean plastic pollution, it is the dominant item in the macroplastics (ie, those items larger than about 8 inches) category, with one study determining up to 70% of all floating macroplastics come from the fishing industry.
The Guardian reports that a study of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch estimated 86% of all megaplastics it contained were fishing nets. Ghost gear is "like a zombie in the water," a marine biologist with Greenpeace tells the AFP. "Nobody takes out the catch, but it's still catching"—and killing or harming an estimated 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals, and turtles each year. The report notes that 64% of the planet's oceans are "beyond the national jurisdiction of any one nation," and "there is currently no overarching or comprehensive framework to protect marine life" there. What Greenpeace wants to see happen: "The world's governments must take action to protect our global oceans, and hold the under-regulated fishing industry to account for its dangerous waste. This should start with a strong global ocean treaty being agreed at the United Nations next year." (Read more pollution stories.)