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Project GearSearch: Reducing ghost gear and marine plastics pollution




18 months




Project Gearsearch is an 18-month project to tackle the issue of lost and abandoned fishing gear at sea. Often fishing gear is unintentionally lost due to damage from other vessels or bad weather. However, lost fishing gear is costly to fishermen and entraps marine life, negatively impacting fish stocks. Such occurrences are referred to as ‘Ghost fishing’.


Creels/ pots and traps, static netting and mobile fishing gear such as trawls.

Project Summary:

Lost fishing gear is an environmental and economic problem leading to a rapid increase of ocean plastic and ‘ghost-gears’ that trap marine fauna. Project GearSearch refines an innovative technology to resolve this longstanding ecological and economic problem, that helps fishermen easily locate their lost gears before they become pollution. Industrial fishing gear accounts for roughly 10% of marine plastic debris (WWF 2020). Whilst some gear is dumped, most is lost through no fault of the fishermen, who must bear the economic burden of replacing it and the lost fishing opportunities incurred. Richardson et al (2019) estimate that 8.6% of all traps are lost annually, costing over 4000 UK fishermen £16m total per year.
Static fishing gears such as traps and nets are set on the seabed and marked with floats. If these floating lines are damaged or cut, the gear becomes lost and external factors such as weather or the passing vessels that cause the loss often move the gear in the process, thus compounding the problem. Presently, there is no solution to easily assist fishermen to find their lost fishing gear.
This project will develop and test in conjunction with commercial fishermen an acoustic tag solution called MyGearTag.

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