LEADER of the pack
Local fishing action group, LEADER is flying the flag for a plastic-free fishing industry in Menorca with its ‘More fish, Less Plastic’ campaign.
Originally set up by the LEADER Association, the campaign, ‘More Fish, Less Plastic, was a first step towards reducing the use of harmful plastics in the day-to-day activities of Menorca’s fisheries.
With help of a donation of over €20k from the Menorca Preservation Fund, the campaign aimed to successfully reduce plastic in the whole supply chain by replacing single-use and polystyrene packaging with biodegradable materials. From the moment the fish are caught to the moment they are sold, LEADER has effectively reduced the damage and pollution caused by plastic throughout Menorca’s fishing related industries.
The ‘More Fish, Less Plastic, initiative was so well received in terms of the quick transition to the new materials, as well as the support from local businesses, that LEADER extended their campaign towards the waste and marine debris caused directly by the fishing industry.
With an estimated 640,000 tons of fishing gear being dumped in the ocean each year, so-called ‘ghost fishing’, continues to pollute the water, kill marine life and damage ecosystems long after it has been abandoned.
Fishing nets, long lines, hooks and other dangerous fishing equipment can be found the world over, wreaking havoc among marine life and fatally trapping anything in it’s path. In fact, it is thought by experts that ghost fishing is actually responsible a high percentage of the accidental catches of commercial and non-commercial species worldwide, highlighting the grave effect it can have of marine life.
Surprisingly, although recent awareness campaigns have been dramatically increased around plastic pollution in the sea and how to avoid single-use plastics, it is estimated that fishing nets and equipment actually account for 46% of all plastic found in the oceans.
The highly durable fibre used in the manufacturing of certain types of equipment also causes additional problems for marine life. As a synthetic material, it degrades into micro-fragments causing a threat to any species that accidentally ingest them along the food chain, which of course also includes us.
Aside from having a huge environmental impact, the abandoned fishing equipment also poses a massive health and safety risk to divers, sailors, or anyone using the sea for recreational activities. With so much debris floating around below the surface and on the seabed, there are accidents just waiting to happen.
With support of around €70k of funding from the Menorca Preservation Fund and Blue Marine Foundation to purchase a specialised boat, the association launched their new project, part of which would include the collecting of fishing equipment that had been lost or abandoned around Menorca’s coasts.
The collective campaign, entitled “In search of Ghost Nets”, aims to; educate people on responsible marine practices and activities, monitor the nautical sector, and ask people to notify LEADER of any abandoned fishing equipment. So far, the association has successfully located 4 nets and continues to help with coastal clean-up activities around the island.
The acquisition of the boat also allows LEADER and the local fishing action group to relay important information regarding Menorca’s nautical sector to all those using the seas both recreationally and professionally, as well as to the local government.
The objective of this campaign is to make sure that current regulations, which have been put in place to protect Menorca’s waters, are adhered to and respected by all. LEADER is there to help make good practices commonplace, as well as survey marine protected areas to ensure the protection and conservation of Posidonia meadows, as well as stop poaching.
By uniting local organisations, companies and individuals in this important initiative, the LEADER Association aims to rectify the problems facing Menorca’s nautical sector in order to create cleaner, safer and better protected seas for the future.
If any person wants to report the location of lost fishing equipment or suspicious fishing activities, send an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover Image – Maldives Scuba Diving Centre