Fishing For Flotsam In The North Sea...Instead of Just Fish

Part of the North Sea 'catch': plastic, plastic, plastic plus some metal odds and ends

The environmental expert at the Swedish Maritime Administration, Stefan Lemieszewski, is proposing that fishermen in the North and Baltic Seas start fishing for garbage instead of just for fish. Fishing for litter is a practice in the Netherlands, Denmark and in the UK, but in those nations, it is a volunteer effort conducted by the nonprofit organization KIMO. In those countries KIMO gives fishermen reusable trash carry-alls and pays for disposal of collected refuse.

Lemieszewski is proposing the government pick up the tab for fisherman to do this kind of trash collection as part of their professional duties. Going one step further with the idea would meld together "no fish zones" like the one developed in Scottish Arran with "fishing for litter" programs, giving the seas and fish, especially endangered fisheries, a break.But Bert Veerman at KIMO says there's still a ways to go to acceptance of that kind of concept, and quite a lot of money involved. He estimated that maintaining a full-sized fishing boat costs 500,000 Euros (US $740,000) annually. And fisherman are an individualistic lot, Veerdum said, who like their independence and reject the notion of changing profession to ocean-going trash collectors.

Still, the amount of trash floating around is astounding and needs more attention. KIMO's efforts in the Netherlands leads to collection of just 300 tons of flotsam and jetsam from the North Sea each year - a tiny portion of the 20,000 tons estimated to be tossed out of boats of all sizes each year. By studying a 20-ton portion of that trash, KIMO has made an estiated laundry-list of the amazing amount and variety of seaborn garbage: 20,000 oil barrels, 69,000 buoys, 16,000 full-sized oil drums, 18,000 lobster and crab pots, and almost 200,000 paint cans. Plus thousands of TVs, computers, shoes and clothes, coffee makers and other detritus.

Veerman is clear that the power to stop this massive dumping must first come from the EU demanding that ships give an accounting of their trash and what they do with it between ports of call. KIMO is working to that effect. Lemieszewski says the Swedish state should pay domestic fisherman to do the trash-collecting job instead, and believes the state would benefit, as stricter quotas on endangered fisheries are thought to be needed and beach clean-up is a rising cost. The Swedish Professional Fishermans' Association gives the idea a thumb-down and says fishermen already have a vested interested in keeping their seas clean, but the sheer amounts of trash (90 percent of it estimated to be plastic) is a clue that Lemieszewski idea should at least be considered. Via ::SR Swedish Radio (Swedish)

See also: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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