Toolkit: Marine litter retention, Why set up a marine litter project?

Marine litter retention projects provide an opportunity to bring together all key participants – fishermen, port authorities and waste management companies – to think about solutions to integrate marine litter in the fishing ports’ waste management systems, and in the long-term, to make it common practice.

Marine litter retention projects provide an opportunity to directly involve fishermen in the reduction of marine litter. Fishermen are the first witnesses of the environmental harm caused by marine litter when they catch litter in their nets. Marine litter directly impacts fishermen’s livelihoods as it can damage fish stocks, damage fishing gear and waste the time of fishermen in clearing nets of litter. Marine litter retention projects are an effective way of promoting fishermen’s role as guardians of the marine environment, helping them contribute to protecting their working environment and reducing the marine litter problem in their fishing area. 

The results of marine litter retention projects are not only about the number of tons of litter removed from the sea – they can also encourage changes to attitudes and working practices in the fishing industry. Marine litter projects can contribute to industry-wide changes so that fishermen routinely no longer discard marine litter caught in their nets at sea. This still widespread practice is mostly a result of the limited storage capacity on board as well as the potential additional costs for specific waste receptacles and fees for landing the litter in ports. Marine litter projects can help remove these financial and practical obstacles that prevent fishermen from retaining marine litter on board their vessels and discharging it in an environmentally sound manner. The projects do this by setting up an effective waste management system in fishing ports, so that fishermen can discharge marine litter at no additional charge to them. 

Marine litter retention projects can also contribute to improved information about the amount and distribution of marine litter without causing additional negative impacts on the marine environment (such as additional fuel burning, additional by-catch and harm to the seafloor that might result from dedicated information collection activities). This improved information can help inform policy measures that aim to reduce marine litter and to improve its management.



Picture: Per-Olof Larsson