Article series - status Sweden

The efforts of the Swedish agency for marine and water managemnet (Swam) are aimed at making an impact, both in Sweden and internationally, to decrease the amount of waste that is being dumped in the world’s seas and oceans. This involves, for example, providing financial support to projects focused on stopping or limiting marine pollution, along with managing the waste that has already been dumped at sea.


Foto_Yrkes_Ingemar Pettersson Azote 1
Trawling in Gullmarsfjorden Copyright: Ingemar Pettersson Azote

Swam actively participate in efforts run at the EU level and within the scope of both the OSPAR and HELCOM Conventions. These Conventions have adopted regional action plans to reduce the amount of marine waste. During the summer of 2017, OSPAR launched a new regional status assessment (IA 2017) where you can read about such things as the current status of marine waste in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean, including the North Sea.

·         OSPAR’s action plan for the Northeast Atlantic Ocean

·         HELCOM’s action plan for the Baltic Sea

Swams action program Good Marine Environment 2020 contains five activities targeting marine waste, of which we are responsible for three:


·         promote effective, sustainable collection and reception of derelict fishing gear, as well as preventing new losses

·         create a national information campaign against marine waste aimed at consumers

·         support initiatives that promote, organize and implement beach cleanup in affected areas.

The global perspective

Marine waste exists in all the world’s oceans and seas. There are also marine and coastal environments located very far from the source that have been destroyed by such pollution.

Many countries in the world participate in, or have their own, action programs for reducing the amount of marine waste. Nevertheless, it is still a very serious environmental problem worldwide.

UN Sustainability Goals

In the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development there are 17 global goals and targets for promoting sustainable development in various ways. Target 14.1 aims to significantly decrease the amount of pollution that reaches coastal and marine environments by reducing the total amount of waste in the world and improving the way it is managed, which includes more recycling.

Because the scope of the problem with marine pollution is increasing, rather than decreasing, it is a very important target to achieve by 2025.

The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management has delivered an analysis report on marine waste to the Swedish Government Offices in conjunction with the 2017 UN Ocean Conference. It has also commissioned and financed the following report by the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment.



Derelict fishing gear becomes marine waste

Ghost nets are abandoned fishing nets and trawls that continue trapping fish without anyone taking care of the catch. The problem extends to other types of gear as well, such as cages and fyke nets. Modern, artificial materials in fishing gear do not easily decompose, which is why the problem has grown. In certain areas, lost or derelict fishing gear that has continued trapping fish over a long period of time, may even threaten the survival of some species.

Birds and other marine animals also risk becoming entangled in such fishing gear, which can strangle them, or cause them to starve to death. More notice and attention is being given to the problem with ghosts nets. At present, however, these is insufficient knowledge on the impact that this has on the ecosystem.

 It is estimated, however, that there are currently at least 1,000 km of ghost net in the Baltic Sea. These nets trap at least 200-300 tons of cod each year.

The Institute of Marine Research in Lysekil has run a project to document the impact of ghost nets. Ghost nets, which, by the end of the study had been in the sea for 18 months were still catching fish with a 40 percent rate of efficiency.

Methods to remove derelict fishing gear from the seabed have been developed in close cooperation with professional fishermen who traditionally fish the areas. Collecting ghost nets and other derelict fishing gear is both costly and time consuming. However, it is essential to the well-being of humans, animals and the environment.


Actions targeting derelict fishing gear

Finding and collecting ghost nets is part of the action program Good Marine Environment 2020. The Swedish agency for marine and water management is responsible for setting aside resources and engaging the right participants in the effort to promote effective, sustainable collection and reception of derelict fishing gear, as well as preventing new losses.

Some examples of actions targeting derelict fishing gear:

Simrishamn Muncipality together with the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation are heading the EU project, Marelitt Baltic that involves collecting data on existing ghost nets, assessing the need for dragging operations and working on preventive measures.

Trelleborg Municipality and Region Skåne have worked together to develop a tool for reporting any ghost nets that are discovered. Anyone who discovers such nets can use the tool to enter the coordinates of the location. The coordinates are then displayed on the website for anyone who would be interested in helping to remove them.

Håll havet rent is an environmental project to clean up the sea, initiated by Smögens Fiskauktion AB. The project aims to facilitate a simple, easy way for professional fishermen to dispose of and sort marine waste that gets caught in trawls and fishing gear. There is also a management solution for discarded fishing gear, such as trawls, nets and other devices. The project has obtained funding from the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management.

8-fjordar is an organization which, in 2015, tested a method for easily discovering ghost nets. More than 30 derelict basket nets and other fishing nets were found using a special device called (in Swedish) a “trollhoppa”.  It is similar to an anchor (with spikes) that is dragged along the seabed.

The Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation has used funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to remove ghost nets from the seabed and shipwrecks in Sweden. Ghost nets that have been found on the seabed through dragging operations are typically more than 15 years old. Those found on shipwrecks tend to be younger.

Furthermore, the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management has together with the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency received a government commission to, among others, propose action items and controls for minimizing the negative impact on marine environments due to the dumping of plastic waste.


Collection points for old fishing gear

There needs to be collection points for waste and cargo residues in fishing ports to meet the need for waste disposal from ships calling at the port. Included in the category of ship-generated waste is also the waste from operations, such as discarded fishing gear. The rules also apply to fishing boats that collect bycatch, from, for example, ghost nets.


Grants for dragging operations and preventive measures

Through the Swedish Board of Agriculture’s Maritime and Fisheries Program it is possible to apply for funding of projects aimed at keeping our seas and oceans free of derelict fishing gear and marine waste. It is possible to receive funding for such things as dragging operations, information campaigns and purchasing equipment for collecting ghost nets and other types of marine waste.


Reporting and removing derelict fishing gear

Professional fishermen sometimes lose their fishing gear and are unable to retrieve to. In accordance with Article 48 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009, they are required to report any such losses. The report must be filed within 24 hours of the concluded efforts to retrieve the gear.

In Sweden, such losses must be reported to the Fisheries Monitoring Center (FMC). This information is important, since it can be used to later locate and retrieve the derelict fishing gear. To facilitate retrieval of derelict fishing gear, there are certain rules on labeling and reporting the location of fishing gear that is used. The rules make it possible to determine who has used the gear if it is later discovered in the water.