Fishermen have hauled up 190 tonnes of marine litter in 3 years

Fishing for Litter encourages fishermen to collect litter on a voluntary basis in Ireland

 Fishermen Rodney Long from Waterford and Calvin Garrihy, Killybegs, Donegal, are part of the Fishing for Litter initiative. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography

Fishermen Rodney Long from Waterford and Calvin Garrihy, Killybegs, Donegal, are part of the Fishing for Litter initiative. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography

 

Fishermen in Ireland have hauled up more than 190 tonnes of marine litter in their fishing nets in just three years under a voluntary “Fishing for Litter” campaign.

Fishing for Litter was established in 2015 and encourages fishermen to collect litter during normal fishing activities at sea on an entirely voluntary basis. It now operates in 11 ports throughout Ireland.

On Monday, the ports of Howth in Co Dublin and Kilmore Quay in Co Wexford joined the initiative, which is led by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and funded by the European and Maritime Fisheries Fund.

Member vessels are given large bags to collect marine litter that accumulates in their nets during fishing operations. Vessels then inform their harbour master that they have marine litter coming ashore at the end of their trip. Filled bags are returned to the quayside and moved to secure skips ready for safe and responsible disposal by approved waste contractors. More than 90 fishing vessels are supporting the scheme.

Catherine Barrett of BIM said fishermen throughout Ireland had embraced the initiative with all six fishery harbours run by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine participating.

“Fishing for Litter is part of our national commitment to help retrieve marine litter. The appetite for maintaining a clean marine environment among the Irish fishing sector is huge; their livelihoods depend on it,” she added.

Reducing costs

According to Howth harbour master Harry McLoughlin: “On a practical level, I saw it as a way to reduce costs for the harbour but, most importantly, it’s made everyone from harbour staff to fishermen more conscious about having a good working environment. One of the first questions I now get asked when boats come in is where are the [Fishing for Litter] bags?”

John Lynch, chairman of the South and East Fisherman’s Organisation, a fourth-generation fisherman who is based in Howth, underlined that collecting marine litter at sea was everyone’s responsibility.

“We bring in every scrap, whether it’s plastics, shoes, bicycles. I’ve been bringing it in for the past 30 years, since I started fishing. Fishing for Litter has definitely helped to bring about a greater level of awareness and industry engagement.”

Other ports participating in Fishing for Litter are: Clogherhead; Dunmore East; Castletownbere; Ross A Mhil; Killybegs; Greencastle; Dingle; Union Hall; and Kinsale.