Old fishing gear polluting the River Ganges is severely threatening endangered wildlife such as otters, turtles and dolphins.
Researchers from the University of Exeter say short gear lifespans and lack of appropriate disposal systems mean if fishing equipment such as lines and rods can’t be fixed or repurposed, they are disposed of directly in the river when they become damaged.
Wild animals then risk becoming entangled in the rubbish, the majority of which is made up of old nets.
The study found levels of waste fishing gear are highest near the mouth of the river in Bangladesh and those involved say they hope to see a circular economy established where materials such as nylon can be reused for other purposes.
Dr Sarah Nelms, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, said: “The Ganges River supports some of the world’s largest inland fisheries, but no research has been done to assess plastic pollution from this industry, and its impacts on wildlife.
“Ingesting plastic can harm wildlife, but our threat assessment focussed on entanglement, which is known to injure and kill a wide range of marine species.”