Collecting ghost nets in the Baltic Sea

Considering the number of nets lost annually in the Baltic fishing grounds, estimated in the framework of the Ghost Fishing Pilot Project (“Ecological effects of ghost net retrieval in the Baltic Sea. Pilot Project: Collecting Ghost Nets. Final report”), there is no doubt as to the need to carry out further, extended actions aimed at minimizing the problem with abandoned gears, in order to reduce the detrimental effects caused by ghost nets to the Baltic ecosystem. 

BalticSea2020 decided therefor to grant funds for a project in larger scale. Actions was carried out by WWF Poland in co-operation with the Lithuanian Fund for Nature from April 2012 until March 2013.


Fishing gears abandoned or lost at sea are an unsolved and “silent” problem. It continuously catches fish, birds and marine mammals for many years at the seabed causing degradation of the marine environment. In the framework of the pilot project carried out by WWF Poland with the support of BalticSea2020 in 2011, it was estimated that each year approximately 10 thousand of nets are lost or abandoned in the Baltic Sea. In addition, approximately 450 tonnes of fishing nets are entangled on ship wrecks in the Polish Economic Zone. Research has also proved that the fishing pressure exerted by lost nets could ranges from 20% of the usual net capacity after 3 months, up to 6% after 27 months. Because they do not readily degrade, ghost nets continue to trap and kill marine life, including fish, birds and sea mammals until they are removed from the sea.


The main objective of the project has been to carry out activities aimed at cleaning the Baltic Sea, in the Polish and Lithuanian territorial waters, from lost nets including gear retrieval actions at sea (trawling) in a cooperation with fishermen – 40 days at sea in the Polish waters and 20 days at sea in Lithuanian waters, and clean up a total of four shipwrecks. Furthermore, the project has conduct an information campaign directed at the general public, schools, fishermen and local politicians. To prevent the loss of fishing gear and mitigate the effects of ghost nets, a database has been created to give fishermen the opportunity to report all cases of lost fishing gear. The database will help to create an interactive map showing where the fishing nets are entangled.

By removing lost nets from the sea in the Polish and Lithuanian zones, the project has contribute to decreasing unnecessary and uncontrolled impact of ghost fishing on the species which are already heavily affected by commercial fisheries, such as cod, salmon, sturgeon, endangered sea mammals such as harbour porpoise and birds such as cormorants and will therefore positively impact the Baltic environment. The project has also contribute to raising awareness of sea users with regard to the lost nets.

For information of the pilot project: Collecting Ghost nets - click here.

Final report (2012)
Read the final report here.


Project status

Start: 2012-04-01
End: 2013-03-31


Project manager

Piotr Prędki, WWF Polen