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In Norway, the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries has carried out annual retrieval survey in the Atlantic and Barents Sea since the 1980s to catch lost fishing gear. The surveys is based on extensive information gathering of lost gears. Since 1983, the Directorate of Fisheries has picked up over 572 km of gillnets. Furthermore, Norway has cleaned up after abandoned facilities for shellfish farming. In the last two years, a pilot project for "Fishing for litter" has also been carried out, where fishing gear accounts for a significant part of the waste where the fishermen themselves fish during their own trips. Through annual beach cleaning surveys, thousands of voluntary Norwegians has gathered a large amount of gear and ropes along the entire Norwegian coast. Our own and foreign fishermen's gear contributes to a significant part of the coastal litter. In addition to all of the implemented cleanup measures, it is going to be implemented more preventative measures because the most important thing is to avoid littering in the first place. However, the cleanup must continue in order to minimize the environmental impact of lost gears and other plastic waste that will occur in the marine environment.

Flyndre i Spøkelsesgarn   -  Rudolf Svensen
Flounder caught in ghost nett.                                                          Copyright: Rudolf Svensen

Norway is Europe's largest fishery nation and a leading nation in aquaculture. Recreational fishing also plays a major role in Norway. Norway has a fishing fleet of approx. 5600 vessels, mainly smaller vessels, but also an effective ocean-going fishing fleet, with 242 vessels over 28 meters fishing across the North Atlantic and the Barents Sea. Although the number of vessels and the number of fishermen has decreased considerably, the catch has been around 2-3 million tones since the 60s. Gillnets, pots and longline are important gear for the smaller fleet, while trawls, purseines and danish seines are important for the ocean-going fishing fleet. A large proportion of the tools are today made of plastic.


Liner under kai - Pia Ve Dahlen
Longlines under a dock Copyright: Pia Ve Dalen

Aquaculture is considered Norway's major growth industry. In 2015, 1.4 million tonnes of food fish was slaughtered. The industry is very equipment-intensive, new investigations show that there are about 190,000 tonnes of plastic in the fish farms. Every year, 25,000 tonnes of plastic is discarded from this equipment, most float collars / plastic pipes, but also a lot of nets, feed hoses and ropes.

The amount of plastic waste from the aquaculture industry is far greater than the fishery. Recreational fishing involves many people, the amount of equipment and waste here is much smaller, but the losses of gillnets and pots are still considered significant.

Marine Littering has received enormous attention also in Norway, not least after a large amount of plastic film was found in the stomach of a stranded whale in western parts of Norway. Marine litter has therefore also come high on the politicians' agenda. Marine litter is a serious threat to Norway's coastal, tourist and fishing industry. By 2018, the authorities grant large sums to clean Norwegian beaches and raise awareness about these environmental problems. Other actors also contribute economically to this. Large parts of the coast have not yet been cleared. "Keep Norway Beautiful» appears as a unifying umbrella organization for all the voluntary cleanup crews in Norway.


Dø sjøfugl (fiskesnøre og dollyrope) - Ola Nordsteien, Jomfruland fuglestasjon
Dead bird caught in line and dollyrop parts.                                     Copyright: Ola Nordsteien

In addition, Norway is now considering a possible producer responsibility for equipment used in fisheries, aquaculture and recreational fishing. Mepex Consult in cooperation with SALT has recently gathered basic information for further assessments in the Environmental Agency. Such producer responsibility means that manufacturers and importers of equipment will be responsible for receiving discarded equipment and try to recycle as much as possible. In this way, the equipment will be pulled into a well-functioning system and a material cycle rather than ending legal and illegal landfills or in the ocean. Similarly, in Norway there are well-functioning producer liability schemes for packaging, electronics, cars and batteries. In total, these producer liability schemes account for 70% of all plastic waste in Norway. At the same time, the system of Fishing for litter is further developed. In this way, fishermen will be get the opportunity to deliver marine waste in more and more ports along the coast. In other words, the authorities in Norway take concrete steps to reduce the marine litter and increase the recycling of plastics. Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that the industry has already ensured that large amounts of equipment are collected for recycling. However, in relation to the ambitions of a circular economy and, not least, the “vision zero” regarding marine litter, we have a huge job ahead of us. This also includes better traceability and documentation as to where all collected plastic is transported and how it is treated after use. The industries should welcome new measures because it will the benefit of the environment and the reputation of tourism, fisheries and aquaculture.

Foto, Mepex, fotograf Torbjørn Tandberg
Textwriter Peter Sundt from Mepex                          Photo: Mepex, photographer Torbjørn Tandberg