The UK is committed to protecting the marine environment. However, due to the transboundary nature of marine litter from discarded fishing gear and the challenges around identifying the provenance of abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear, we have not made an estimate of the amount of discarded fishing gear from foreign fishing fleets around the UK coastline.
Under the Merchant Shipping Regulations on the Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships (2020), the discharge of all garbage into the sea is prohibited with very limited exceptions. In all cases the discharge of plastic is prohibited. These regulations bring the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships (MARPOL Annex V) into UK law.
The Regulations require fishing vessels to record the discharge or loss of fishing gear in the Garbage Record Book or ship’s logbook and to report the accidental loss or discharge of fishing gear which poses a significant threat to the marine environment or navigation. Under the Merchant Shipping Regulations it is an offence to fail to report the discharge of fishing gear which poses a significant threat to the marine environment or navigation to (a) the ship’s flag State and (b) any coastal state who has jurisdiction over the waters where the loss or discharge occurs.
The UK collects data on the quantity and type of marine litter in our waters including on seafloor litter, floating litter and beach litter, following methodologies agreed through the OSPAR Convention’s monitoring and assessment programmes. Data is available through the Marine Online Assessment Tool: https://moat.cefas.co.uk/
Recognising the scale, urgency and transboundary nature of the global action needed to tackle marine plastic litter and microplastics, the UK this year has driven the G7 to commit to step up international action to tackle ghost gear, including an agreement to support organisations such as the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and agreement to carefully consider the recommendations of the UK commissioned OECD report ‘Towards G7 Action to Combat Ghost Fishing gear’. The communique and OECD Ghost Gear report can be found here: G7 Climate and Environment Ministers' meeting, May 2021: communiqué - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
G7 Climate and Environment Ministers' meeting (pdf, 628.7KB)