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Danish fisheries sector and marine waste

Clean Nordic Oceans has asked the Danish Fishermen’s Association to talk about how the Danish fisheries sector contributes to solving the challenge of marine waste. Journalist Claus Kirkegaard, Danish Fishermen’s Association, has taken up the challenge and written this post.

A healthy marine environment is a key issue for the Danish Fishermen’s Association. The Danish Fishermen’s Association is therefore also part of the campaign to eliminate marine waste – ‘Sammen om et hav uden affald’ – which the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark is carrying out in 2018.

There is no doubt that marine waste, plastic, and ghost nets are prominent elements on the media agenda in Denmark.

In the case of ghost nets (fishing nets left or lost in the ocean by fishermen), it is important for the Danish Fishermen’s Association to emphasize that in the vast majority of the cases, it is not commercial fishermen who leave their fishing equipment freely floating in the oceans.

When a commercial fisherman loses, e.g., a trawl, he will try to recover it for several reasons. It is not good for the environment to leave it in the sea. And it is not good business, either, as fishing equipment is often very costly. Therefore, great efforts are made to recover lost fishing gear. If this is not possible, there are rules in place for reporting to the authorities. The Danish Fishermen’s Association naturally expects that these rules are complied with by the association’s members.

When Danish fishermen catch marine waste in their fishing gear, they bring it back to shore, because it makes sense to bring it to shore rather than leaving it in the sea. And it is the impression of the Danish Fishermen’s Association that fishermen are good at bringing waste caught in their gear back to shore. Firstly, no fishermen have an interest in catching the same waste several times as they often fish in the same areas trip after trip. Secondly, they can get rid of marine waste free of cost in Danish ports as part of the port fees they already pay.

About 90 per cent of Danish fisheries are today MSC-certified, and many of the members of the Danish Fishermen’s Association are on the association’s MSC list. The fishermen on this list have signed an extended fisheries code for the fishing industry, which includes items concerning landing of inorganic waste.

In the fishing ports in Denmark, the perception is that the fishermen have become more aware of bringing marine waste back to shore. The ports see more waste but also experience that the vessels have become better at waste sorting. And some of the recovered fishing equipment will be recycled if it is clean enough and not filled with, e.g., sand.

Common to all fishing ports in Denmark is that waste management is included in the port fee paid by the vessels, so they will not be charged separately to get rid of their waste.

According to the trade organization Danish Port Operators, an estimated 2,000 tonnes of waste are delivered to the ports each year. But there are currently no actual figures showing how much marine waste is delivered to the Danish fishing ports, as no registration of the waste takes place. This will now be addressed when the major Danish fishing ports in autumn 2018 will launch a project to record the waste being delivered to the ports to a far greater extent than today. This allows the ports to find out where the waste comes from and also to classify it. In addition, the fishing ports will make an effort to sort and recycle more of the waste. One of the project objectives is also to find out how much of the waste has been caught by fishermen. In the coming months, the fishing ports will look for partners who can help to finance the project, but they are also looking for businesses that will buy and convert the waste into new products.

The article is written by Journalist Claus Kirkegaard, Danish Fishermen's Association. 

Published 12 September 2018.