A new record has been set during the 2023 Norwegian Cleanup Expedition with a total of 1339 traps recovered along with 37,000 metres of net

A new record has been set during the 2023 Norwegian Cleanup Expedition with a total of 1339 nets recovered which accounts for 37,000 metres of net

A total of 1339 nets have been retrieved and removed from the seabed during the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate’s cleanup expedition this autumn. This sets a new record.

Additionally, several kilometres of lines, ropes, and trawl wires have been collected. The recovered nets correspond to 37,000 metres and have also been removed from the seabed.

“In the expedition’s more than 40-year history, never before have so many traps been retrieved from the seabed,” reports the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate in its summary.

The removal of lost and abandoned gear is a crucial contribution to reducing marine litter and ghost fishing.

“Unlike finding discarded trawl wires, it’s important to clarify that the traps were lost during fishing for various reasons. This year, there has been a particular problem with trap losses in the blue halibut fishery. Nevertheless, the trap record does not indicate that there has been more ‘negligence’ in trap fisheries. On the contrary, this shows that fishermen are complying with reporting requirements, and there is an annual need for clean-up on this scale,” says expedition leader Gjermund Langedal in the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate’s Environmental Section.

However, the experience gained from the total amount of findings shows that fishermen still have room for improvement, for example, in the sizing of fishing gear.

“Listen to experienced fishermen in the area where fishing takes place,” advises the expedition leader.


Extensive Expedition

The expedition has been ongoing since the beginning of August until the end of September, covering an area from Ålesund in the south to Kirkenes in the north, using the chartered vessel M/S “Vikingbank.” The work has covered the coast and offshore areas at depths ranging from 50 to 1300 metres, across 242 stations.

In total, 1339 traps of various types have been removed, along with 42,000 metres of line, 25,000 metres of ropes, 229 traps, as well as quantities of buoys and anchors, and over 8000 metres of trawl wires and 5000 metres of purse seine ropes that have been abandoned or dumped. Additionally, various components from trawl fishing, such as trawl doors, gear, and around 250 square metres of trawl lines, have been retrieved.

Various forms of plastic, oil barrels, oil clothing, gloves, and various pipes and engine parts that have become entangled in traps have also been removed. Results from each individual station can be found on the Norwegian Fisheries Directorate’s map.


Ghost Gear Removed

Abandoned and lost gear will continue to fish and represent an undesirable extraction of living marine resources.

“Approximately 15,000 kg of fish and 2300 crabs were recorded in the gear we removed during this expedition. Apart from 1 whale and 3 porpoises, no seabirds or other marine mammals were recorded in the gear removed from the seabed. We are particularly pleased to see how well the solution with escape hatches in king crab traps works. The crab catch is primarily taken in older traps and nets,” says Langedal.


“Obstacle at Sea”

Langedal emphasises that cooperation with the fishing fleet is good in terms of gaining access to cleanup areas, while various types of cables on the seabed continue to pose new challenges.

“This is especially the case because a safety distance must be maintained to avoid damage to the cables. Unfortunately, we have had some gear losses left behind due to this,” says Langedal.

The closure of the Coast Guard Centre, which used to receive reports of gear losses, has also presented some challenges because not all fishermen handle the new electronic reporting solution by Barentswatch equally well.

“We also see that vessel information on Barentswatch is not as up-to-date, which has caused some communication problems with the owners of fishing gear. We hope that this will be resolved before next year’s cleanup,” says Langedal.


What Happens to the Gear?

The quantity of lost and abandoned gear that is recovered is distributed in three ways:

  1. Returned to the owner.
  2. Recycled.
  3. Deposited.


“More than 500 nets and over 100 traps, along with quantities of ropes, buoys, and anchors, have been returned,” says Langedal.

If it is not possible to return the gear to the owner, cleaned traps and ropes can be delivered to Nofir AS for recycling. In addition, metal products are delivered for recycling. If recycling is also not possible, the gear and gear components are delivered to approved waste disposal sites.


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