Eyemouth fishermen have played their part in a fishing for litter project which has been honoured with an RSPB Nature of Scotland Award for marine conservation.
The award, sponsored by Northlink Ferries, recognises an “outstanding contribution to the conservation or sustainable management of Scotland’s precious marine resources”.
Eyemouth fishing boats have been participating in the scheme for over five years, collecting tonnes of waste from the sea.
Richard Lawton, Eyemouth harbour master said: “Eyemouth Harbour Trust and a number of the Eyemouth fishing fleet have participated in the ‘Fishing For Litter Scotland’ scheme now for over five years.
“Fishing vessels collect the special ‘Fishing For Litter’ sacks from the harbour office and take these to sea with them. When the boats are hauling and sorting their catch on deck litter and rubbish are separated into the sacks and then brought ashore. These are collected on the quayside by EHT staff and put into a skip provided by the scheme.
“To date approximately 50 cubic metres of compacted rubbish, mostly plastic and non-biodegradable items have been recovered from the sea this way. The fishermen themselves have been keen to take part in this in an effort to keep the seas around our coast clean.”
The Fishing for Litter project was introduced to Scottish waters by KIMO UK in 2005 and in ten years the boats have collected 900 tonnes of marine litter.
By removing barriers to landing the litter the 15 participating harbours around the Scottish coastline have been able to encourage skippers of fishing vessels to land litter they catch in their nets during their normal fishing activities. Much of it is plastic that, if left in the sea, would spend many years slowly breaking down into small pieces that could potentially affect the marine food chain.
Behind the fishing for litter scheme is KIMO (Local Authorities International Environmental Organisation), an association of coastal local authorities whose goal is to eliminate pollution from the Northern Seas. The organisation’s members include 75 member authorities in 10 countries.
KIMOUK’s chairman, Raymond Christie said: “Thank you to the RSPB and Northlink Ferries. This award is great recognition for the hard work carried out over the last ten years by fishermen and harbour staff right around the Scottish coastline. Marine Litter is a huge problem and we all need to do as much we can to stop litter, particularly plastic, getting into our seas. The world is just waking up to the fact that we need to stop putting rubbish in our seas and oceans and start taking it out.”
Ross Dougal, president of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, commented: “We are delighted that the work of our fishermen in removing marine litter has been recognised with this prestigious award. Scottish fishermen are enthusiastic participants in the Fishing for Litter initiative and are committed to ensuring that our seas are clean and healthy.”
Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment added: “Marine litter is a serious issue in Scottish seas and across the global oceans, litter can harm wildlife and the marine environment. It also impacts on our marine industries through damage to subsea and coastal infrastructure, vessels and fishing gear.”
“I am delighted that Fishing for Litter has received an award for marine conservation, this ground-breaking project is making a real difference in cleaning up Scotland’s seas and this award is recognition of their excellent work. I would encourage others to follow their lead and consider the actions they can take to ensure that litter does not enter the marine environment.”
And finally, KIMO International’s president, Karsten Filsø (Holstebro Kommune, Denmark) said congratulated the Scottish fishermen: “I am delighted to hear of KIMO UK’s success in winning this award for its Fishing for Litter Scotland project. Marine litter is one of the most significant global problems affecting the marine environment, killing seabirds, fish and mammals. It’s an eyesore on our beaches and costs the fishing industry money in lost time. Through the Fishing for Litter initiatives, the
KIMO organisation along with ports and fishing vessels are making a positive contribution to reducing litter in our seas, which benefits marine wildlife, our fishing industry and our coastline.”