What happens to fishing gear when it reaches the end of its working life?
Some of it is lost or abandoned at sea. Although there are many praise-worthy initiatives currently underway globally to remove some of this waste from the ocean, doing so is expensive and doesn’t address the problem at its source.
Some fishing gear is discarded and goes to land-fill which is not ideal from an environmental perspective.
A small portion is recycled (see, for example, KIMO’s net recycling initiatives in Scotland and the Netherlands). At present, recycling fishing gear is a labour-intensive process. Much of the fishing gear is composed of mixed materials not all of which can be recycled. In practice this means that a lot of time and effort has to be spent to manually sort the materials as they can’t be processed by means of an automated process. The volumes currently being recycled are also too small to make fishing gear recycling into a profitable business model.
This may all be about to change.
In December 2016, Mike Mannaart (KIMO Netherlands and Belgium) and Arabelle Bentley (KIMO International) attended an EU Conference on Plastics in Rotterdam. The purpose of the conference was to contribute to the development of the European Strategy on Plastics. Approximately 30 roundtable discussions took place which will serve as input for the European Strategy on Plastics and of the transition agenda on plastics which is part of the European Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan. One of these roundtable discussions focussed on ways to scale up the recycling of fishing gear. The idea is to connect different organisations who work on this issue to see if a realistic business model and integrated plan can be put in place. Many possible avenues to an integrated fishing gear recycling plan were explored such as:
- Designing fishing gear with recycling in mind from the outset (i.e. make nets that are easily recyclable rather than sit with the problem of hard-to-recycle nets)
- Strengthening cooperation between smaller organisations and companies who are already working in this area so that they can combine forces
- Creating a commercially viable business model by looking at ways of upscaling current best practice examples (e.g. the ‘Keep the Sea Clean’ project by FF Norden in Smögen, Sweden)
- Designing an integrated plan that covers all aspects of fishing gear use – from production to end-of-life (i.e. design the entire life-cycle of fishing gear in such a way that it forms a circular economy)
Participants in this discussion have agreed to meet again in order to come up with an integrated plan/ business model and to explore options for securing the necessary financing to take the proposals forward. This is an exciting initiative with the possibility to link up with many organisations and initiatives across Europe. Potentially interested parties include:
- FF Norden (Sweden)
- Ghost Fishing Initiative
- World Animal Protection
- The Ocean Cleanup
- Seas at Risk
- Verlos de Zee
- Ministry For Sustainable Development, The Environment And Climate Change, Malta
- Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, France
- Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment
- Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM)
- Happy Seal
- Healthy Seas
Both KIMO Netherlands and Belgium and KIMO International have expressed an interest in participating. Participation in the project is open to any organisation which has an interest in net recycling. Please do get in touch with us if you would like to get involved.
It is intended that a preliminary meeting will take place in June or September 2017. We will keep KIMO members informed of any progress made.