Government hopes to extend 'Clean Oceans Initiative' across country

Adrian Bendon, owner of the Hannah J. fishing trawler with Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine Michael Creed T.D. on the pier at Union Hall in West Cork. Pictures: Dan Linehan

The government hopes to extend its new 'Clean Oceans Initiative' to other parts of the country, with the aim of cleaning up Ireland's marine environment.

The new scheme is already operating in 12 ports around the country and is encouraging fishing vessels to bring any plastic or rubbish material it comes across while fishing back to harbour, so it can be recycled.

The second aspect of the scheme involves recycling end-of-life fishing nets, with Bord Iascaigh Mhara using a new vehicle to shred the nets so they can be pelletised and then recycled into fishing boxes.

Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Michael Creed, launched the initiative in Union Hall in Co Cork, one of the 12 harbours currently operating the scheme.

"This is a global issue and we are not immune from it," he said.

The Minister said Ireland wanted to have a sustainable eco-system and that cleaning up the sea around our coasts would also benefit areas such as seafood standards.

These people are out on the high seas every day trawling and catching marine litter so rather than leaving that to degrade, why not bring it in?

Catherine Morrison, BIM sustainability and certification manager, said in the piloting period in November and December 23 tonnes of used nets were processed in the BIM 'Green Machine' vehicle.

That vehicle will tour the country to facilitate the shredding of more end-of-life fishing nets, and Ms Morrison said: "When the fishermen are finished with their nets they strip off the ropes and buoys and rather than them going to landfill, it is going to the shredder. It compacts them down so they are easier and cheaper to transport."

BIM hopes more ports would become involved in the fishing for litter scheme. According to Ms Morrison: "The boats take the tote bags out to collect the material, pick it up and come back with it onshore."

That material will then be dealt with by local recycling companies. The piers currently operating theme scheme are either local authority of Department operated but Ms Morrison said other harbours could get involved once there are dedicated recycling facilities in the area to deal with the recovered waste.

She said in one case in Howth a fishing vessel recovered a motorbike and Adrian Bendon, owner of the Hannah J which fishes out of West Cork, said the problem of sea waste and plastic has grown in recent years.

He said that on one occasion his own vessel became entangled in Spanish long line ropes that had been dumped at sea, meaning he had to be towed back from Shot Head and missed two days of fishing as a result.

Also at the launch in Union Hall Minister Creed admitted that the fishing industry in Ireland is "significantly challenged" by the threat posed by Brexit, but said he believed recently struck agreements on fishing rights and quotas should extend beyond the UK's departure from the EU.

New Fishermen's Health Manual

Michael Gallagher, skipper of the Hannah J. with crew members Alexander Voinea, Mohammed Yahia and Andrew Zack remove waste plastic gathered in their fishing nets at Union Hall, Cork

Bord Iascaigh Mhara is to issue a new Fishermen's Health Manual to all Irish registered vessels.

It is the first time such a health manual has been targeted at the fishing community in Ireland.

BIM Sustainability and Certification Manager Catherine Morrison said the idea had been taken from the United Kingdom but adapted for boats working off the Irish coast and will be made available in a number of languages so it can be accessible to crews featuring different nationalities.

In the manual foreword, BIM chief executive officer Jim O'Toole wrote: "We see the personal health of each crew member as a key element of health and safety when out fishing.

The purpose of BIM's 'Fishermen's Health Manual' is to give practical advice to fishermen in Ireland on ways to stay healthy and well.

Ms Morrison said BIM intends to mailshot the manual to all Irish-registered vessels.

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