Fishing litter travels nearly 3,000 miles from America to Scotland

18 June 2015

We warn of impact on marine wildlife as fishing litter crosses the Atlantic

The impacts of fishing litter on the ocean environment are widely reported but finding the source of much of the litter and ghost fishing gear can be more difficult.

During an annual spring beach clean organised by Shetland Amenity Trust over 4500 volunteers collected around 70 tonnes of debris washed up during winter storms. In amongst the litter were a number of quite telling finds.

The organisation has amassed a range of washed up tags from lobster pots, which they have traced all the way back to America.

A collection of tags from recovered Lobster pots

Lobster pot tags collected during the beach clean

Jane Outram from the Shetland Amenity Trust said: “We come across all kinds of litter from our beach cleans, but research into these tags and their lettering revealed that these lobster trap tags have indeed made a trans-Atlantic journey from Newfoundland and Maine, travelling over 3000 miles to end up here in Shetland. Some of the tags were set on traps as long ago as 1988!”

The Trust then got in touch with us in order to report their finds. They hope it will be useful evidence for the Sea Change campaign which addresses the impact of ghost fishing gear on marine animals.

Alyx Elliott, UK Sea Change Manager, said: “We work with many other charities and organisations around the UK to track and record these types of fishing litter. Our Sea Change campaign aims to bring an end to the damaging impact ghost fishing gear has on marine mammals and local wildlife.

We have added these lobster tags into our database and we encourage other beach users to grab any gear they find while out and about, take a photo and share it with us for our research.”

 

A beach covered with marine litter and fishing gear

One of the beaches before the beach clean

Most fishing gear is made out of plastic meaning that it persists in the oceans for centuries, accumulating year on year. World Animal Protection estimates that more than 136,000 seals, sea lions and large whales are killed by ghost fishing gear every year. An unimaginable number of birds, turtles, fish and other species are also injured and killed. In the UK, seals, minke whales, seabirds and dolphins are at particular risk.

How you can help

We have added these lobster tags into our database and we encourage other beach users to grab any gear they find while out and about, take a photo and share it with us for our research.

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