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Marine plastic pollution can also create huge
economic costs in the form of GDP reductions,
estimated at up to US$7 billion for 2018 alone.93
This can result in a reduction in
presence of plastic pollution on coastlines can deter visitors
from tourist hotspots.94
revenues for the tourism industry as visitor numbers fall,
particularly when plastic litter is present during the peak
tourist season. Marine plastic pollution also puts fishing
and aquaculture activities at significant risk. Marine plastic
pollution may contaminate aquaculture, reducing the quality
of farmed fish and making it non-marketable.95
the presence of plastic in the ocean can reduce water quality,
affecting fish larvae survival.96
This can reduce fish catch in a
given year, impacting revenues for fisheries and aquaculture.
For example, the combined reduction in revenue from
tourism and fisheries has been estimated at between US$0.5
and US$6.7 billion per year for 87 coastal countries.97
estimate is not included in the high-level estimate to avoid
double-counting as the impact on fisheries and tourism is
already accounted for in the figure that estimates the cost of
marine ecosystem service reduction.
Governments, non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) and concerned citizens also incur significant
costs from undertaking clean-up activities to remove
the waste, as high as US$15 billion per year.98
Most of
these clean-up activities are focused on inhabited coastline,
rivers, ports, and marinas, although ad hoc activities are also
conducted in terrestrial environments. There are direct costs
in the form of government and NGO funding for transport
and employee time. At the same time, there are also indirect
costs in the form of the time spent by unpaid volunteers, and
potential health risks from clearing sometimes sharp and
hazardous plastic waste. The direct cost of these activities
can be high; it is estimated that if the floating plastic waste
in rivers, ports and marinas had been collected and plastic
cleared from beaches across 87 coastal countries in 2018,
it would have cost US$5.6-15 billion.99
While they weigh
financially on governments and NGOs, clean-up costs are
not included in the quantification developed in this report, to
avoid any double counting between these costs and the costs
of plastic waste pollution.
Between 500,000 and 1 million tonnes of abandoned or
lost fishing gear are entering the ocean every year.100
" ghost gear " poses significant threats to marine wildlife,
habitats, and even the livelihoods of coastal communities:
Ghost gear is responsible for thousands of
marine animal deaths a year. Marine debris affects
approximately 700 species living in the world's oceans,
with animals often getting tangled and trapped in nets,101
as seen in Australia (see Annex 1: Country Deep Dives).
This can prove fatal; 80% of entanglement cases result in
direct harm or death to the animals involved. A previous
WWF report highlighted that ghost gear is responsible
for harming two-thirds of marine mammal species, half
of seabird species, and all species of sea turtles.102
recent study of a haul-out site103
in southwest England
witnessed 15 seals entangled over a year, of which 60%
had entangling material cutting through their skin causing
wounds considered to be serious, and two additional
entangled seals died during the study period.104
that become entangled can be left to suffer for several
months or even years subjecting them to a slow, painful
and inhumane death.105
This can pose significant threats to
endangered species; in the northeastern Mediterranean,
entanglement of endangered monk seals with fishing gear
was cited as the second most frequent cause of death after
deliberate killing.106
Ghost gear also damages vital marine habitats,
posing serious threats to the health of the ocean.
Marine habitats such as coral reefs and mangroves are
important for the functioning of marine ecosystems,
serving as breeding grounds or nurseries for nearly all
marine species.107
This damage could
Ghost gear can entangle parts of the
coral reef, breaking parts off and causing coral fractures,
impacting the reef ecosystem.108
have potentially devastating consequences, with habitat
destruction being closely linked to biodiversity loss.109
Ghost gear threatens the food sources and
livelihoods of coastal communities. Threats to
biodiversity and reductions in marine resources from
plastic pollution can threaten the livelihoods of coastal
communities. Communities that rely on fishing for income
will also face safety risks because of the navigation hazards
posed by ghost gear.110
Entanglement of a fishing vessel
can affect the vessel's stability in the water and restrict
its ability to manoeuvre, putting it at risk of capsize or
An extreme example of the potential risk was
seen in South Korea in 1993, when a passenger ferry
became entangled in a nylon rope causing the vessel to
turn, capsize and sink resulting in 292 deaths.112
© Enrique Lopez-Tapia/ WWF


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of TCoPS

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