Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. has unveiled a new a Clean Oceans Initiative Fishing Gear Retirement Scheme to coincide with World Oceans Day on 8 June.
The new initiative, which is aimed at collecting old and damaged fishing gear, is to take place this autumn. The pilot project is being led by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland’s Seafood Development Agency and is part of its Clean Oceans Initiative, established in 2019, to address the growing problem of plastics and other waste in our oceans.
To date, almost 600 tonnes of waste has been hauled up in nets by fishers and by the wider Irish seafood industry during a series of pier and shore clean-ups as part of this European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund supported initiative.
Minister McConalogue said the livelihoods of many of those living in Ireland’s coastal communities rely on having a clean, pollution free, marine environment: “Protecting Ireland’s marine environment means protecting the marine habitat and protecting Ireland’s coastal communities today and for future generations. The livelihoods of those who live and work in these communities depend on their working environment being pristine. I am greatly encouraged by the huge efforts being made by fishers, and by the wider Irish seafood industry as part of the Clean Oceans Initiative. This is an industry which is demonstrating the positive impact that is being made through working together to actively address the serious problem of plastics in our oceans.”
The Clean Oceans Initiative Fishing Gear Retirement Scheme is being piloted in Rossaveal, Co Galway later this year. Fishers from the Rossaveal fleet are being invited to dispose of their old and damaged gear as part of a free drop-off service at the pier. The fishing gear will then be recycled, upcycled, or disposed of in a responsible manner.
Vessel owners will be asked to register details of the materials they drop off to record their origin and allow BIM to track how they are used in the future.
BIM Chief Executive Jim O’Toole welcomed the announcement of the fishing gear retirement scheme, and praised the efforts made by Irish seafood industry in relation to operating more sustainably: “Today’s announcement is another positive step towards addressing the issue of plastics and other waste in our oceans. Sustainability, in the environmental sense, is critical to food security and having a safe and healthy seafood supply. Awareness of the serious issue of plastics in our oceans is widely known and much media attention has been given over to it. But genuine efforts are being made by the Irish seafood industry to do what it can to address the issue. “
Mr O’Toole added that it was vital for stakeholders to work together in relation to sustainability: “Collaboration across the industry and with the wider marine sector has been critical to the success of the Clean Oceans Initiative to date. The sector is truly committed to actively addressing the growing problem of plastics in our seas. Their motivation is simple. They want to protect the marine environment today and for future generations.”