Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has launched the first ever Fishing for Litter scheme in Northern Ireland.
The scheme encourages fishermen to land rubbish trawled up in their nets during normal fishing operations. It promotes sustainable waste disposal practices among the industry.
Marine litter also has direct consequences for the fishing industry in terms of the time and effort involved in removing debris from nets, the loss of contaminated catch, and the repair of nets.
The scheme is being sponsored by the Department of the Environment and is being administered by the Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority, the body responsible for managing the fishery harbours of Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie.
Seventeen boats have already signed up for the scheme.
Mark H Durkan – “An estimated eight million items of litter enter the world’s oceans each day. Seals and dolphins mistake litter for food, or become entangled in it”
Mark H Durkan said: “Marine litter is more than a visual affront, it injures and kills. An estimated eight million items of litter enter the world’s oceans each day. Seals and dolphins mistake litter for food, or become entangled in it. Pictures of seal pups entangled by plastic debris are truly heartbreaking. Globally, an estimated one million sea birds are killed annually through entanglement or ingestion of this rubbish.
“Marine litter also damages livelihoods and can cost each fishing vessel between £15,000 and £17,000 a year. Items commonly caught in fishing nets and trawls include pieces of plastic and polythene, rope and cord, nets, bottles, rubber, metals and textiles. If not recovered, all these items would eventually end up on our seabed or littering our beaches and shoreline.
“The Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority (NIFHA), DOE and fishermen are taking direct action to help address this issue. I commend them for that, especially as skippers and crews will not receive any financial compensation. The initiative represents a positive, modern attitude towards good operating practice and the fact that over 15 boats have already signed up for the scheme indicates the commitment our fishermen feel in their role as guardians of the marine environment. This is the motivation to participate and I encourage more boats to join the scheme.”
Kevin Quigley, the NIFHA chief executive said: “I am delighted that our ports will participate in KIMO’s network of Fishing for Litter schemes currently in operation across Northern Europe. While we are not responsible for the seas outside of the limits of our ports, I am looking forward to working with DOE on rolling out this project, which will improve the quality of life for the fishing communities NIFHA serve. This is a project to protect the marine environment for future generations and one I am proud to tell my children about.”