Commercial fishers are acutely aware of the potential for marine litter to cause lasting damage to their catches and the wider industry, a new study suggests.
They also appreciate they can be part of the solution, but believe others – including the shipping and offshore industries – could be doing more to support their efforts to prevent items of marine litter ending up in our oceans.
The research, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin and funded by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, assessed fishers’ perceptions of Fishing for Litter (FFL) – an initiative that has been operating around the British coastline since 2005.
With hubs in Scotland and the South West of England, its aim is to reduce the amount of marine litter in our seas by physically removing it, while also highlighting the importance of good waste management among the fleet.
Researchers at the University of Surrey and the University of Plymouth spoke to around 120 fishers and other stakeholders, including boat owners and crew both signed up and not registered with the FFL initiative.
Overall, fishers said they often found marine litter in their hauls, adding it was extremely important to manage waste responsibly at sea and on the coast, and that keeping the sea and coasts clean was important to them.
They also believed similar attitudes were held throughout the fishing industry, adding that most fishers assumed responsibility for their own waste and for disposing of it in a responsible manner.
Those surveyed were also broadly supportive of the FFL programme, with scheme members reporting less environmentally harmful waste management behaviours at sea and in other contexts than their non-FFL counterparts.