While independent lobby groups are leading the way, there are some sporadic moves afoot by governments around the world to save our oceans and ocean life (and our food chain) from plastic. In India new rules include a 'no free plastic bag' initiative by government, in the United Arab Emirates they vow to be 100% plastic-free by 2013 and now in the EU the authorities are to pay fishermen to retrieve plastic bags from the ocean.
Plastic ’soup’ in the ocean as plastic degrades into smaller and smaller pieces to be ingested by marine life and so enter our food chain
Currently the world's population uses and discards around 500 billion plastic bags every year. The European Union (EU) plans to pay the continent’s fishing fleets for collecting plastic as part of an initiative that will help reduce pollution in sea.
As per under consideration proposals from EU commissioner for fisheries Maria Damanaki, fishermen will be paid to land plastic to provide them with income and reduce pressure on dwindling fish stocks, the Sunday Express reported.
Vessels that clear up plastic will initially be subsidised by the EU. The hope is that the practice will become self-sustaining as the value of recycled plastics increases.
Damanaki will unveil a trial project in the Mediterranean this month, which will see fishermen equipped with nets to collect plastic debris.
The plan, as well as an attempt to handle seaborne waste, is also aimed at pacifying Europe’s fishing industry over a potential prohibition on the wasteful practice of dumping low-value fish at sea.
Fleets fear of losing money by not being able to throw away lower-value catch for which they say there is little demand. A million tonnes are thrown back each year in the North Sea alone.
Commissioner Damanaki said: ‘Ending this practice of throwing away edible fish is in the interest of fishermen and consumers. It has to happen, we cannot have consumers afraid to eat fish because they hate this problem of discards.
‘People (in the fishing industry) feel insecure because this is a change. That is why they need incentives.’ The industry will contribute to the pilot but it is not known how much each fisherman will get. Payments will depend on tonnage and the recycling market.
Plastics 2020 Challenge, an industry campaign that supports recycling and preventing litter, is backing the move.
Significant letter from reader:
Sender: Gerald Graham
Message: This practice of paying fishermen to collect plastic at sea sounds great in theory, but it runs counter to the time-honoured legal principle that a criminal should not profit from his own crime. To see what I mean, I invite you to watch these two video clips:
Admittedly, the videos were filmed in Canada ( by myself, I might add ), but somehow I doubt European fishermen behave any better. The problem is a global one, as evidenced by all the garbage that washes ashore on the world ocean.
Gerald Graham, Ph. D.