Be responsible with your fishing gear

Your old fishing gear belongs in the bin, not the sea. Find out why it can be so dangerous for marine life.

Next time you head out for a spot of fishing, think about the gear you might inadvertently – or carelessly – leave behind.

Discarded fishing equipment such as line, rope, nets, hooks and buoys might seem innocuous enough, but it can be fatal for our marine wildlife.

Sea birds and marine mammals such as seals, dolphins, sea lions and even whales can all be seriously injured or die if they become entangled.

If an animal is unable to free itself, fishing line and rope can slice through its skin, resulting in infections or even amputation of flippers, fins, or feet.

Discarded ropes with floats or buoys attached are a particular risk for marine mammals, as they can slow them down when hunting or even leave them unable to dive, dooming them to a slow death from starvation.


Dolphins and seals can also be at risk of entanglement while you are fishing, so if one comes close to you, reel in your line and enjoy the close encounter. Don’t be tempted to throw them a fish, as this can lead to aggressive behaviour or to them becoming dependent on humans for food.

Naturally on a day out fishing, lines and ropes do break, so losing fishing gear can sometimes be unavoidable. But if you have a choice between throwing your old line and hooks in the sea or waiting to put them in a bin on shore, make the choice that protects our precious marine wildlife.

How can you help?

If you see an entangled bird or marine mammal, the best thing to do is contact your  nearest National Parks and Wildlife Service office for advice. 

Don’t attempt to remove the entanglement yourself – this could result in serious injury to you and the animal. National Parks and Wildlife Service staff undertake special training to rescue marine animals that get caught in fishing gear. 

Did you know…

Discarded fishing gear is not only a risk to marine wildlife – it’s also damaging to historic shipwrecks.

Lines, nets and hooks, along with heavier debris such as chains and anchors, can all catch on wrecks, creating snags that can tear off pieces of fragile timber or metal.

Some historic wrecks, like – the Zanoni off Ardrossan and the HMAS Hobart in Yankalilla Bay – have their own special historic wreck protection zones that ban fishing and anchoring within a 550-metre radius.

This story was originally posted in November 2016.

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