Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) member FV Defiant unloading some of the discarded static fishing gear they hauled up in their trawl

Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) member FV Defiant unloading some of the discarded static fishing gear they hauled up in their trawl

The Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) has again highlighted the reckless practice of gillnetters and longliners dumping used gear overboard at sea.

The local boats around the islands are hauling up more and more discarded static fishing gear that they claim is being dumped by Spanish and French owned boats. The number of these boats have been increasing in the Shetland area in recent years and over the voluntary tie-up scheme at the start of COVID in 2020, many local boats found themselves forced off their traditional trawling grounds by groups of aggressive gillnetters and longliners who boxed-off areas.

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As well as local boats losing traditional fishing grounds, the issue with recovering this discarded gear from their trawl nets is time consuming and costly to the fleet. Scores of local boats have hauled up fine mesh twine in their own nets and have been forced to abandon fishing trips to return home for costly repairs after propeller get fouled by longlines or gillnets.

When the world is talking about plastic pollution in the world’s ocean, it seems that some of these fishing vessel owners care little for the environmental damage they are causing. Quite often when the gillnets are worn or damaged, the sheets are stripped from the nets, tied-up and dumped overboard with the valuable lead and headline stored and taken back home where they are resheeted for use again.

In Spain they have launched a new initiative to try to get their fleet to bring their used fishing gear back home, but some boat owners are still not participating, feeling it is not cost effective to bring their waste back home.

Local vessels that have come across this discarded gear have been acting responsibly and bringing it back ashore for recycling but are starting to feel that these vessels using static fishing gear are not taking their responsibilities for the marine environment serious enough.

The SFA again highlighted the issue of the dumping in a Facebook post today, Friday 08 March stating:

“Local fishing crews spend increasing amounts of time disentangling this fine mesh twine – or gillnetting – which has been discarded by visiting vessels fishing around Shetland.

Although Shetland fishermen bring it back to shore, and dispose of it properly, they shouldn’t have to make up for the environmentally irresponsible fishing practices of others. After it gets caught in their own equipment, local crews have to disentangle this discarded gillnetting on deck – often in poor weather.

Industrial gillnetters and longliners operating around the isles are guilty of dumping masses of this plastic mesh netting – polluting our seas, harming wildlife, and causing damage to other vessels. They also cover increasingly large areas of the isles’ traditional fishing grounds, blocking them off to the Shetland fleet.

Thank you to the young crew of the Defiant for removing this plastic debris from our waters.”

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Shetland fishermen highlight continuous discarding of static fishing gear

by editor time to read: 6 min