Toolkit: Derelict Fishing Gear Retrieval, Why set up a DFG project?

DFG is found in each of Europe’s four regional seas. Due to the continuous growth in the quantity of litter and the slow rate of degradation of most marine litter items, the marine litter problem continues to worsen. Plastic marine litter items, such as fishing nets, do not biodegrade, but are split into micro-plastics due to exposure to sunlight.

Some degree of DFG is unavoidable due to the environment in which fishing takes place (conditions such as weather, currents, tides, the depth of the sea or the type of sea bottom) and the technology used (loss rates of DFG vary between and within fisheries). The rates of permanent net loss are estimated to be rather low – well below one percent of nets deployed - in relation to the total number of nets used in EU waters (Brown et al, 2005).  In most cases, the loss of gear is unwanted by the fisherman and has negative effects in terms of lost time and costs. However, in some cases fishing gear is also intentionally discarded, mostly to avoid the waste management cycle and related cost or efforts.

A detailed overview of the possible causes and impacts of DFG is given in the Overview of Causes of DFG and Overview of Impacts of DFG which are available for download.

In general, your DFG project can provide a forum for bringing together all key stakeholders – such as fishermen, gear manufacturers, port authorities, recycling companies and policy makers – to think about and to implement solutions to prevent the loss and discarding of nets in the sea and to reduce the impact of unavoidable DFG. Involving fishermen in the retrieval of DFG can promote their role as guardians of the marine environment, helping them contribute to protecting their working environment and reducing the problem of DFG in their fishing area. 

A challenge in setting up a DFG project might be that, until now, DFG received less attention that other types of marine litter projects, such as beach cleaning or marine litter retention projects. Various international legal and policy regimes recognise the DFG issue, but there is has been limited implementation and enforcement. Also, while several research projects have been carried out, specific DFG policies on prevention and mitigation at EU, regional or national level are largely absent. There are new positive developments though, for example through the various marine litter action plans that have been or are being prepared for Europe’s regional seas.

Picture: © WWF Poland/O Skumial 2

Causes of DFG
Impacts of DFG