New research estimates that fishing equipment and tools are polluting waters at the rate of at least 705,000 tons each year.
When the items — nets, lines and traps — are inadvertently lost or abandoned at the bottom of the ocean, they become classified as ghost gear. The discarded debris not only pollutes the waters, but it disrupts ecosystems and has become increasingly deadly.
The 'ghost gear' debris, which builds up over decades, is also affecting the ecosystems of marine life in these areas.
A 2018 report by London-based World Animal Protection highlights how the accumulation of ghost gear in global waters is having a "catastrophic impact": Each year, more than 705,000 tons of it builds up in the oceans — an estimate the nonprofit animal welfare group believes may actually be higher.
Meanwhile, up to 71 percent of "entanglement incidents" involve encounters between an animal and plastic rope or netting, which includes ghost gear. In 79 percent of cases, entanglement causes harm or death, the study found.
"Ultimately this could mean our oceans simply stop providing for humans in the many ways we now rely on them," the report said.
But some people are hard at work to prevent that from happening.