West Cork's fishermen declare war on scourge of marine litter

December 31st, 2015 11:51 AM

By Southern Star Team

At the launch of BIM's Fishing for Litter campaign on the Brian Eoin in Union Hall were William Deasy, BIM; Tom Piper, KIMO UK; Catherine Barrett, BIM and Martin Deasy, owner/skipper of Brian Eoin.

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BIM’s Fishing for Litter initiative aims to cut back on the amount of rubbish in our seas, writes Siobhán Cronin

TWO West Cork ports are leading the way with a major project to keep our marine areas free of litter.

BIM – the Irish fisheries authority – has established the ‘BIM Fishing for Litter’ programme in three ports – Castletownbere and Union Hall in West Cork and in Clogherhead in Co Louth. Fishing for Litter encourages fishermen to collect their litter while out at sea, both on board, and litter that is caught in nets or drifting at sea. 

The response has been extremely positive and local representatives, including the respective harbourmasters, fishermen, community groups and Cork County Council have been instrumental in its progress to date. 

Facilitated by BIM, local industry groups in Castletownbere and Union Hall recently met with a UK group to hear what the UK ‘Fishing for Litter’ programme has achieved and what lessons can be learnt to ensure the programme gains traction in Ireland.

The success of the programme in the UK has demonstrated that the cost of marine litter is not just borne by the marine environment. 

The UK programme has shown the cost to the fishing industry is on average €12,000 per boat, each year, through contamination of catches, broken gear and fouled propellers. It takes 41 hours every year to remove marine debris from a boat’s nets, a significant amount of a boat’s allocated days at sea.

 In Castletownbere, harbourmaster Cormac McGinley welcomed the scheme by saying: ‘We are delighted to take part in this initiative that fits well with our existing marine waste collection facilities. Through BIM and Frank Fleming of Responsible Irish Fish, we are confident we can continue to get fishermen to sign up and take part in this worthwhile programme.’

 BIM board director Bill Deasy has paid tribute to volunteers from the Union Hall Tidy Towns and Coast Care group and Mary Stack of Cork County Council’s Environmental Awareness & Research Unit, who actively promote waste prevention and resource conservation.

 Teresa Shanahan of Union Hall Coast Care, offered her support to the initiative. ‘By removing waste from the sea and preventing the discard of further litter, our beaches will become cleaner and safer and the impact on marine wildlife through ingestion, entanglement and contamination will also be reduced,’ she said.

 Union Hall harbourmaster John Minihane has facilitated a designated point in his busy compound where ‘Fishing for Litter’ bags can be kept and collated, ready for safe and responsible disposal of the waste ashore. 

‘Cork County Council provide a number of facilities for effective waste management for the local vessels on the pier, being the first county Council-run pier to participate in Fishing for Litter is a pleasure, as it’s a win for the marine environment and a win for those whose livelihoods depend on quality seafood,’ explained John.

 Mr Deasy, with close and extended intergenerational family connections in the fishing business, acknowledged that the initiative is one of the positive steps which industry itself is taking to ‘maintain a healthy marine environment for future generations’.

 Fishermen working out of Union Hall and Castletownbere wishing to join the scheme should contact Catherine Barrett, BIM Project Officer on [email protected] or 087 2897651. Locally, the Harbour Masters’ in Union Hall and Castletownbere can be contacted to collect Fishing for Litter heavy duty bags.

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