All Irish trawlers challenged to partake in Clean Oceans Initiative

The entire Irish trawl fishing fleet has been called upon to participate in Ireland’s new Clean Oceans Initiative by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed.

The minister outlined his ambition to have all Irish trawlers participating in Ireland’s first coordinated initiative on land and at sea to collect, reduce and reuse marine litter and clean up our marine environment.

Following on from the Fishing for Litter campaign the minister has challenged Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) to work with the fishing industry to ensure participation of 100% of Irish trawlers in the Clean Oceans Initiative by the end of 2019.

BIM will report to him quarterly on the progress being made to meet that target.

Speaking at the launch of Ireland’s Clean Oceans Initiative in the fishing port of Union Hall today Minister Creed said:

“I recognise that coordinated action is required on land and at sea to address the serious issue of pollution of the Oceans with plastics. This threatens our fish stocks, the wider marine environment and the future of our fishing industry.

I am setting out a challenge for our fishing industry to set a world first by having all of our fishing trawlers cleaning and removing plastic from the ocean every day, as they go about their activity at sea.

“Ireland’s ‘Clean Oceans Initiative’, which I am launching today, aims to mobilise every member of the Irish seafood sector and its wider communities – every fishing port, fishery harbour and pier in Ireland – to take action.

“I believe that our fishing industry will build on the good work they have been voluntarily doing to date on marine litter, to get every trawler in the Irish fleet involved, to show how we can begin to address this great global challenge of our time.”

Fishermen will have a key role to play in recovering discarded plastics from the oceans, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Towing nets through the waters around the Irish coast on a daily basis, fishermen often find debris, including waste plastics, when the nets are hauled.

The new scheme will facilitate fishermen to bring this waste home from their fishing trip; Minister Creed is encouraging fishermen to recover as much plastic as possible from the seas around Ireland.

He has made funding available under Ireland’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to support the new “Clean Oceans Initiative” to provide on-board storage facilities and on-shore infrastructure for environmentally friendly disposal of all plastics, waste, ghost fishing gear, etc. recovered at sea.

The on-shore infrastructure will also be available to fishermen and aquaculture operators to dispose of unwanted fishing gear and other items with a plastics content.

Minister Creed has also asked BIM to assemble a collaborative team representative of all stakeholders to focus on solutions for marine litter prevention and removal. The team will include fishermen and fish farmers, net makers, harbour authorities, fish processors, community groups, Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs), academics and NGOs.

Contamination in the marine environment is not a new phenomenon, with up to 80% of marine debris made up of plastics.

Total world production of plastics reached 335 million metric tons in 2016. Plastics do not biodegrade – they photo-degrade, breaking up from recognisable items of all sizes and shapes into tiny particulates.

The risks posed to marine wildlife by waste plastics have motivated research to assess the extent of the problem.

This has prompted current actions with the promotion of all possible measures to prevent plastics from entering our marine environment and to remove as much plastics from the marine environment as possible.