Toolkit: Marine litter retention, Project participants, Fishermen responsibilities

See also: Enlisting fishermen | Port authorities | Waste management companies

The responsibilities of fishermen should be agreed before the start of the project. Fishermen should be provided with a precise description of their tasks and guidance on how to carry them out.

The general responsibilities of fishermen consist of: clearing litter from their nets; depositing the collected litter in the big bags; and landing the bags at the port. Fishermen could also be responsible for putting the bags in the allocated area at the port (for example, in containers, dedicated storage areas or on the quay), depending on the arrangements made with the port authorities. Ports might also require fishermen to provide information on the number of bags to be landed upon arrival at the port. Fishermen should be able to store all marine litter in the big bags. Fishermen should not be asked to sort the marine litter on board or in port, as this will discourage them from participating in the project.

Keeping a register of participating fishermen and the practical arrangements agreed (for example, with respect to handing out the big bags) throughout the project will help you to support them and monitor the results of your project. To clarify responsibilities, it is recommended that you formalise fishermen’s participation in the project by having them sign an engagement letter defining their tasks and the rules they have to follow. 

A model letter of engagement is available for download. The letter can be tailored to the specifics of your project.

One of the conditions that fishermen must agree to is that they must only use the big bags for disposing of marine litter and not for disposing of the waste generated on board. Fishermen in many ports are required to pay a fee for disposing of waste generated on board, so you will need to ensure that the big bags for marine litter are not used to dispose of this waste. This will help you to ensure that your project does not carry the financial burden of disposal of this waste. To this end, you could ask the waste management company treating the waste to conduct random checks of big bags and report back to you if they see instances of fishing vessels using the big bags to dispose of waste generated on board. You could also from time to time carry out random visits on vessels or in port to check the bags. However, you will need to ensure that your checks do not impose additional burdens on fishermen and discourage them from participating. You will need to strike a balance between ensuring that only marine litter is disposed of in the big bags and maintaining the goodwill of fishermen who are collecting marine litter on a voluntary basis. In cases where fishermen directly benefit from the scheme, for example, in a seafood labelling scheme, then there may be a rationale for enforcing this requirement more strictly.


Letter of engagement