EU To Pay Fishermen to Catch Plastic Trash

fishing boats scotland europe photo

Fishing boats in Scotland. Photo: Mark Nicolson / Creative Commons.

With heaps of plastic choking the world's oceans and fishermen chaffing at new regulations meant to protect dwindling European fish stocks, a top EU official has proposed a clever idea that may help address both problems: Pay fishermen to catch plastic trash, rather than fish.EU fisheries chief Maria Damanaki has been under fire for the European Commission's plan to ban discards of edible fish. The practice is no small problem, The Guardian wrote this week:

Two-thirds of the fish caught in some areas is thrown back, usually dead, because fleets exceed their quota, unintentionally catch juveniles or species for which they lack a quota, or because they prioritize higher-value fish and throw away lesser species. About 1 million tons are thrown back each year in the North Sea alone.

Instead of caving in to the fishing-industry pressure on the issue, Damanaki has vowed to move forward with the discards ban -- saying "time is running out" to make "radical reform" -- while offering fishermen an alternative source of income.

Trial Project To Start In Mediterranean
Under a trial project to start in the Mediterranean this month, fishermen will be equipped with special "nets to round up the plastic detritus that is threatening marine life, and send it for recycling," The Guardian wrote. The EU will initially subsidize the initiative, but the hope is that it could eventually become self-sustaining as fishermen make more money from the recycling itself.

A similar -- albeit voluntary -- project carried out in 2002-2004 in the North Sea area, where more than 20,000 tons of marine litter is dumped annually, succeeded in bringing some fishermen on board with the fishing-for-litter idea. According to a report by the Save the North Sea project, fishermen spend an average of one to two hours each week removing litter from their nets; marine debris can also damage fishing gear and contaminate catches.

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