Environment / Help needed to clean the coast of washed-up nets

Discarded nets.

DISCARDED nets are an environmental hazard not just when they are floating in the sea but also when washed ashore.

While volunteers from national charity Ghost Fishing UK are in Shetland this week to retrieve at least some of the nets that are ‘ghost fishing’ in local waters, a Burra resident hopes to find likeminded to help tackle a different net problem.

Janine MacDonald said she had been trying unsuccessfully to get any of the locally based authorities and agencies, such as the council and the coastguard, to help remove a discarded net that has been washed ashore.

Discarded or lost nets are often in remote stretches of coastline and can be partly stuck under rocks and boulders or are half buried in seaweed.

The result of the burning was hardened molten plastic welded onto the rock. All photos: Janine MacDonald

The 70-year-old said that recently it fell on a small team of volunteers to work on cutting a washed-up net into manageable sizes and dragging these off the rocks.

After half the work was done, when the team returned a few days later to finish the job, they found to their horror that someone had set fire to the remaining net.

Fragments of plastic from the burned net.

She said the result was an environmental disaster 1,000 times worse than if the net had been washed back into the sea intact.

“The result of the burning – which was incomplete – was hardened molten plastic welded onto the rock, trickled down through unburned net, along with literally millions of tiny fragments of microplastics already widespread over the rocks ready for the sea to easily reclaim and feed to all her critters, large and small, including the seafood we eat,” she said.

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“I really would like to see an island wide group of potential volunteers who could be contacted to help in/beyond their own locality before another net gets burned.

“If you can get access to the net to burn it, you can access it to cut it up. Of course, personal safety and common sense are paramount. Never work solo.

“I’m useless at IT and social media, so I am looking for someone with these skills as well as folk with experience and knowledge or logistical help.”

MacDonald can best be contacted via WhatsApp 07747 381856.

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