600 tonnes of plastic removed from the sea

Peterhead fishing boat Amity II landing litter in her home port. Photo Karen Murray

MORE than 200 Scottish and Shetland fishing boats have now joined the Fishing for Litter campaign that has just passed the milestone of landing 600 tonnes of marine waste from the sea.

The Fishing for Litter campaign, which started in Shetland and is now run from Aberdeenshire, allows fishing boats to land any waste they catch in their nets at 14 designated ports around the country, including Lerwick.


Project manager Tom Piper said the scheme’s 205 Scottish boats had landed the equivalent of 35 million empty drink cans over eight years since it began.

The amount of litter boats have been collecting has been increasing, with the last 100 tonnes being collected in the past eight months.

However the bulk of the waste is plastic that can spend years in the sea breaking down into ever smaller particles that often enter the food chain.

Marine borne plastic has been identified as one of the most important pollution issues in the UK and beyond, with 250 species of bird, fish, mammal and invertebrate known to have ingested plastic.


Last month a sperm whale washed up on a beach in southern Spain was found to have ingested 17kgs of plastic from greenhouses that produced fruit for UK supermarkets.

This plastic was found in the stomach of a fulmar. Photo KIMO

A recent study showed that more than 95 per cent of fulmars in the North Sea had plastic in their stomachs.

Dr Richard Thompson of Plymouth University has been looking into the toxic effect of microplastics entering the food chain.

Piper said that there about 50 Scottish fishing boats which he would like to see join the Fishing for Litter scheme to make it even more effective.

“I would like to thank all the participants who make the project such a success and continue to improve the quality of our seas. I would encourage more vessels to contact me and sign up to the scheme,” he said.

KIMO can be contacted at tom.piper@kimo.shetland.org or by phoning 01339 885108.

More information about the scheme can be found here.

Meanwhile Shetland’s 26th annual Voar Redd Up is scheduled to take place on 27 and 28 April.

Anyone wishing to register to participate in the UK’s largest spring clean can contact Shetland Amenity Trust at infor@shetlandamenity.org or 01595 694688.