. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .
An article from World Animal Protection
Five sea warriors – women from different corners of the globe are leading our work to tackle the problem of ghost gear in our oceans.
Left to right: Chris Dixon, Elizabeth Hogan and Ingrid Giskes
*Note: While job titles and roles may have changed, we continue to applaud and celebrate the work of these five inspiring women.*
This remarkable group of women – and their colleagues across the world – are fighting together to stop the unnecessary slow and painful deaths of millions of animals.
Every year, more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals and turtles are caught in ‘ghost gear’ – abandoned, lost and discarded fishing nets, lines and traps which can take up to 600 years to decompose.
A staggering 640,000 tons of fishing equipment is left in our oceans each year. The vast majority of ghost gear is made of plastics that take centuries to degrade.
Animals caught in this incredibly durable fishing gear then suffer a prolonged and painful death, usually suffocating or starving to death over several months. Devastating reports show that over 817 species of marine life are affected by this marine litter. Some lost nets drifting in the oceans are enormous – far bigger than football pitches. The nets drift stealthily under the surface trapping and killing marine life under the surface.
Lynn Kavanagh is our Oceans and Wildlife Campaign Manager and is based here in Canada.
One of the most exciting projects Lynn was involved in for the Sea Change campaign was working to remove a 25-year-old purse seine net situated near Pender Island, BC. The derelict net had been in the same location for many years where it killed large numbers of marine animals. Lynn’s team removed a whopping 4,600 pounds of deadly netting.
Elizabeth Hogan works for World Animal Protection in the United States, where she specializes in marine wildlife entanglement, reducing marine debris, working on whaling policy and wildlife in captivity.
For the last five years, she has researched the impact of derelict fishing gear on marine mammals and worked on establishing rescue networks and protocols for entangled marine life.
Elizabeth is a contributing author to two books on corporate social responsibility. She has a degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a dual Master of Science in Marine & Coastal Natural Resources as well as a Master of Science in Sustainable Development from the University for Peace in Costa Rica and American University in Washington, DC.
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Elizabeth recently traveled to Alaska on a mission to rescue and free entangled seals and sea lions along the Alaskan coastline, an area where animals are especially vulnerable to entanglement.
Ingrid Giskes leads the global Sea Change Campaign at World Animal Protection. Originally from Belgium, she has worked for the organization for more than six years and is now based in Sydney, Australia.
On any one day, Ingrid could be talking to governments at the United Nations, working with companies such as Young’s Seafood on corporate social responsibility, and meeting with generous supporters.
Ingrid has worked on projects all over the world, but the start of a project in Indonesia earlier this year was a highlight. Ingrid went to Jakarta with an idea of what a project on gear marking could look like but developed the actual project proposal with local partners over several days to ensure it would be practical and sustainable. Hearing about the realities of the local people, considering their livelihoods and food security was eye opening.
Ingrid previously worked for Amnesty International on refugee issues after a stint of studying and working in Hangzhou, China.
Ingrid lives in a cottage next to the beach and is a keen swimmer, runner and snorkeler – the ocean and the life within it, inspires her every day.
Christina Dixon is based in London and is World Animal Protection’s Oceans Campaign Manager. Chris has worked on a huge number of projects to help remove ghost gear from the oceans.
From joining a dive vessel in Wales to remove ghost gear, writing a proposal for a project in Scotland to map and recover lost gear, and organizing meetings with seafood companies to talk about how addressing ghost gear can be beneficial to their supply chains, Chris’ job is varied.
Her most inspiring trip was working with a team of divers in Scapa Flow in Orkney, Scotland where she spent five days eating, sleeping and working on a boat at sea to problem solve the issue of lost gear collected on the WW2 wrecks in Scapa Flow. The project is now entering its third year and a staggering amount of gear has been removed.
When not saving whales and dolphins and campaigning at the United Nations, Chris plays bass in two punk bands and is a roller derby athlete, hoping to compete in the world cup next year.
Chiara Vitali is the wildlife campaigner for our UK office. Chiara has been passionate about animal welfare since starting her first petition at the age of 11 against the fur industry in Italy, where she grew up. Chiara spends lots of time with the amazing people who are working on the ground at the local level to remove ghost gear from the sea, where they rescue entangled animals and prevent more gear from ending up in the oceans.
One of Chiara’s most rewarding field trips was a visit to a Cornish wreck off the coast of Penzance where she helped retrieve a huge trawler net that would have killed many animals over the next few hundred years.
(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)