Toolkit: Marine litter retention, Project participants, Enlisting fishermen

See also: Fishermen responsibilities | Port authorities | Waste management companies

Involving fishermen during the first planning stages of a project is key to securing their participation throughout the duration of the project. This will help ensure that they have a sense of ownership of the project and they are committed to participating. If you don’t already have contacts with fisherman, making contact with local fishing associations is a good first step. Even if you already have existing contacts with local fishermen, getting in touch with local fishermen’s associations can help you to encourage fishermen to participate and might extend your project to more ports. 

An editable leaflet template that can be used to communicate with fishermen about your project is available for download and can be tailored to your project.

When communicating with fishermen, it is important to remember that their participation in the project is voluntary and fishermen are not financially compensated for their efforts. You will need to focus on the potential benefits for fishermen of participating in a project and appeal to the important role of fishermen as guardians of the sea. Discussing with fishermen the negative impact of marine litter on their activity, their fishing ground and more generally on the marine environment may help to engage them in the project. Fishermen have a strong interest in reducing the impact of marine litter – marine litter can contaminate fish stocks and damage fishing gear and nets. Their participation in the project can also provide public recognition of the role that fishermen can play in improving the marine environment. In some cases, participating in a marine litter retention project might assist fishing vessels in obtaining accreditation under a sustainable seafood certification or labelling scheme.

You can emphasise that your project will support their efforts by limiting the cost and burden of their participation in the project. For example, big bags (flexible intermediate bulk containers) for collecting marine litter should be distributed to them for free. Fishermen should also be able to discharge the marine litter free of charge in the ports.

It is also important when you talk to fishermen to keep in mind the distinction between ship-generated waste, which vessels must manage in compliance with environmental regulations, and the litter they collect in their nets at sea. Your project aims to promote and support good waste management practices on fishing vessels for all waste, whether it is generated on board or collected at sea. Fishermen understand that they have a clear obligation to manage the waste they generate on board, but some may be reluctant to take on the responsibility of managing the marine litter caught in their nets. When discussing your marine litter retention project with fishermen, be sure to keep these two issues separate.

Investing time in regular contact with fishermen’s organisations is crucial throughout the project to maintain motivation and check their satisfaction with the implementation of the project on the ground. If practical given the size of your project and your resources, you might wish to work with fishermen’s organisations to organise a meeting or event once or twice a year to discuss the project with all participating fishermen.

Existing projects have shown that you can build the motivation of fishermen by providing them with public recognition their involvement in the project. Flags, t-shirts or stickers with the logo of the project can provide public recognition to individual fishermen and vessels, contribute to a sense of community ownership among participants and build a positive public image of fishermen as custodians of the marine environment. 

One of the projects assessed by the MARELITT team addressed the problem of marine litter bags being used for galley waste. In this project, when galley waste was found among marine litter, the lead organisation sent a letter to all participating vessels reminding them that only waste collected at sea should be placed in the bags.

Leaflet template