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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019
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New plan to use Irish fishing trawlers to remove plastic from oceans

Planned on-shore and on-board facilities could help solve the problem.

Image: Shutterstock/Rich Carey

IRISH FISHING TRAWLERS will be used to remove plastic waste from the oceans by the end of 2019, according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed today. 

Creed called for all Irish trawlers to get involved in the Clean Oceans Initiative by the end of this year. 

“A coordinated action is required,” he said, “to address the serious issue of pollution of the Oceans with plastics.”

Fishing ports, harbours and piers all need to get involved, said Creed,  and added that he hoped the industry would build on the work it had been doing voluntarily to date. 

On and off shore facilities

Plastic pollution in the oceans threatens fish stock, as well as the wider marine environment, and the “future of the fishing industry.”

The plan is to have all Irish fishing trawlers removing plastics from the ocean every day, “as they go about their activity at sea”, Creed said. 

A Department of Agriculture statement said that those working in the fishing industry shared concerns about the plastics issue. 

“Our fishing vessels are towing nets through the waters around our coast on a daily basis and often find debris, including waste plastics, when the nets are hauled,” said the statement. 

The Minister wants to facilitate fishermen to “bring this waste home from their fishing trip”, is making funding available under Ireland’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), to provide storage facilities on board the vessels.  

The funding is also intended for “on-shore infrastructure for environmentally friendly disposal of all plastics, waste, ghost fishing gear, etc. recovered at sea.”

These on-shore facilities will also be available for fishermen to dispose of unwanted fishing gear and other items with plastic content. 

‘Can’t afford to delay’

Creed has asked BIM — the Seafood Development Agency — to put together a team of stakeholders — fishermen, fish farmers, net makers, harbour authorities, fish processors, community groups, Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs), academics and NGOs – focusing on prevention and removal. 

This would also include a wider outreach to coastal communities, asking people to report back at the end of the year with more proposals for solutions for the removal and prevention of plastics in the future. 

“Contamination in the marine environment is not a new phenomenon, and up to 80% of marine debris is made up of plastics,” said the statement. 

Global production of plastics hit 335 million metric tons in 2016, and while they don’t biodegrade, they photo-degrade, meaning they break up into tiny particles over time. 

Research into the extent of the risks posed to wildlife from waste plastics is welcome, the statement said, but “we cannot afford to delay remedial actions”. 

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