Toolkit: Derelict Fishing Gear Retrieval, Project participants, Involvement of fishermen

See also: Participants in DFG retrieval | Port authorities | Waste management and recycling companies

Involving fishermen from the very beginning of the project is crucial to securing their engagement throughout the duration of the project. Their role will be two-fold: to provide information on the locations of DFG (described in more detail in Involving fishermen in retrieval) and to carry out the actual retrieval of the DFG (described in more detail in Selection of locations).

If your organisation does not already have established contacts with fishermen, making contact with your local fishing association or some individual fishermen is a good first step. Even if you already have existing contacts with local fishermen, getting in touch with the local fishermen’s association can help you to encourage fishermen to get involved and might extend your project to more ports.

Maintaining good relations with the fisheries community is very important. This can be done, for example, by providing regular feedback to them on the project, including information about the nets that have been retrieved. Existing DFG projects have shown that you can build and maintain the motivation of fishermen by providing them with public recognition their involvement in the project. The use of a project logo can provide visibility and public recognition to individual fishermen and vessels. It can contribute to a sense of community ownership among participants and build a positive public image of fishermen as custodians of the marine environment. Even thought they might not work on a voluntary basis, this might also increase the motivation of fisherman involved in DFG retrieval.

Examples of motivations to get fishermen involved in DFG projects

  • Fishermen regard themselves as ‘Custodians of the sea’.
  • Fishermen appreciate the visibility and public recognition of their efforts to keep the marine environment clean and want to maintain their good reputation.
  • The retrieval of DFG is an opportunity for fishermen to diversify their activities and to get additional income in periods when fishing is not allowed due to the restrictions.
  • Reduction of cost as a result of DFG, such as: 
    • High cost to replace fishing gear;
    • Lost operating time (such as due to propellers entangled in DFG);
    • Stock reduction: resulting from contamination of catches and ‘ghost fishing’;
    • Physical damage to fishing vessels and to nets;
    • Negative reputation of the fishing sector and consumer concern.
  • Tangible improvements: fishermen often fish on the same fishing grounds, which gradually become cleaner if DFG is avoided and/or retrieved.