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© Jason Rubens / WWF
© Jason Rubens / WWF

What’s in the Net – Millions of turtles, seals, dolphins, seabirds and sharks killed each year

Added to Press Releases on 19 November 2020
WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue report calls for cameras on fishing boats to monitor and protect marine wildlife.

Hundreds of thousands of endangered marine animals are dying unnecessarily every year as a result of being accidentally caught in fishing nets, according to a new report by WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue.

The What’s in the Net [1] study documents that at least 720,000 seabirds, 300,000 cetaceans, 345,000 seals and sealions, and over 250,000 turtles die after being caught in fisheries around the world annually - alongside tens of millions of sharks. Many of these species are endangered or on the brink of extinction. 

The report looks at how to address the serious issue of monitoring ‘bycatch’ - the unintentional capture of marine wildlife by commercial fisheries - and minimise the number of animal deaths. WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue are calling for the adoption of Remote Electronic Monitoring with cameras (REM) to improve monitoring of catches and accountability across fisheries. 

WWF’s recent Living Planet Report 2020 showed that nature is in freefall with a 68% decline in species population sizes since 1970, and unsustainable fishing is impacting heavily on marine biodiversity. Fishing is the biggest threat to marine wildlife, due to the use of unselective fishing gear such as gillnets, purse seine, trawl nets and longlines.

Conservation of our most vulnerable cetacean, shark and turtle populations is only possible if effective ways to prevent and reduce bycatch are developed. Currently, there is no accurate measurement of the true nature of the problem, as there is very little independent monitoring of most fishing activities at sea.

The use of REM has many benefits, including cost-effective data collection, which can help manage a fishery sustainably and increase compliance with legislation, which will improve consumer confidence in seafood caught in REM fisheries. REM is also a human welfare issue, helping to support human observers at sea by allowing them to operate more safely.

John Tanzer, Head of Oceans Practice, at WWF International said:
Ocean recovery is vital to all life on our blue planet.  Effective monitoring at sea is a key part of supporting this recovery and REM with cameras presents a cost-effective and low-risk solution to support the work of human observers, and significantly expand independent monitoring across fleets where there is no monitoring. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of restoring healthy natural systems and building resilient supply chains, and we feel confident that REM with cameras can contribute to these efforts.”

Andy Cornish, Leader of Sharks: Restoring the Balance, WWF and TRAFFIC’s global shark and ray conservation programme, said: 
“A lack of data on the catches of sharks and rays remains a major issue in most countries and on the high seas. It masks the extent of population declines and is a serious hindrance to science-based fisheries management. REM is now a technological reality, and an important solution to filling data gaps that needs to be embraced.” 

Fiona Ball, Group Director Bigger Picture, at Sky, said:
Sky Ocean Rescue are pleased to have contributed to this report in our continued partnership with WWF to help protect our oceans and drive towards to a net zero future. Putting the ocean on the path to recovery simply cannot wait, because the health of our oceans is inextricably linked to climate change. Through reports and technology like this that we will enable marine wildlife to thrive and improve the health of our waters.”

WWF is urging governments to support the adoption of Remote Electronic Monitoring with cameras (REM) in order improve accountability across fisheries and for addressing the urgent problem of wildlife bycatch across our oceans. 

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Notes to editors:

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit for the latest news and media resources.

Press Enquiries:
Magda Niedużak
Senior Communications Officer
WWF Sharks: Restoring the Balance


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