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Marine / Marine litter campaigners arrive in Lerwick to raise awareness of plastic pollution

The team have embarked on a campaign looking to ‘return rubbish back to its owners’

From left, clockwise: Rolf-Ørjan Høgset, Mara Grafer (Germany), Maya Mittelstaedt (Canada), Rachel Radbourne (England), Hugh Smylie (Australia), Nyah Plozza (Switzerland) and Alex Rovira Lopez (Barcelona). Photo: Dave Donaldson

A CREW of volunteers have arrived in Lerwick from Norway aiming to raise awareness of the international issue of plastic pollution in the sea.

In its latest campaign, the In The Same Boat project is seeking meetings with companies whose logos appear on fishing industry-related plastics which have been found washed up in Norway.

Skipper and team leader Rolf-Ørjan Høgset said that some of the fishing litter which has been found on Norway’s coastline can be traced to its source are from countries like Scotland, including items from Shetland.

He said In The Same Boat is the largest beach cleaning organisation in Norway, removing 1,500 tonnes of rubbish in the past seven years.

Most of this has been fishing related, including netting, boxes and ropes.

A team including six volunteers from across the world arrived in Lerwick on a yacht overnight, and are due to head back to Norway on Saturday.

They aim to meet companies involved in the fishing industry, and Høgset said there is one potential engagement in Shetland lined up.

Explaining more about the campaign, he said: “About 80 per cent of what we find [on Norway’s coastline] is from the fishing industry.

“In the past few months, we have also collected logos from fish crates. What we find that quite a lot of the companies are from the Shetland Islands, and Scotland.

“So we’re wanting to try to address this issue. We have cut out the logos, and we have already been in touch with some of the companies. Some of them want to meet us.

Skipper Rolf-Ørjan Høgset with a map of the location where the fish boxes originated. Photo: Dave Donaldson

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“We just want to talk to the companies to figure out if there’s anything we can do, or even collaborate about, to try to solve the problem, or reduce the amount of plastics going into the ocean.”

He said the collection of logos, from almost 100 companies, are like a symbol which “reminds us that this problem is international”.

“We think there is big potential in a stronger international collaboration,” the skipper added. Earlier this year the team also went to Iceland and Faroe.

Høgset said it might seem “aggressive” to turn up to places and try to speak to companies whose logos are on plastic fishing items; in their words, “returning rubbish back to its owners”.

But he said there is a need to be visible and get attention, and that method tends to open up communication more quickly.

Høgset also said from his experience fishermen themselves are generally “positive and want to help” when it comes to plastic in the ocean.

“But what is needed here is a system change,” he said.

Locally fishing boats which collect marine rubbish at sea can dispose of it onshore through the Fishing For Litter project.

The scheme is organised by KIMO International, a network of local governments working together for healthy seas, cleaner beaches and thriving coastal communities.

Last year it was confirmed that around 58 tonnes of marine litter had been brought ashore in Shetland through the Fishing For Litter scheme since it launched locally in 2014, with more than 30 boats involved.

The issue of discarded fishing gear in the water has also been a long-running issue. Back in 2020 a motion on making representation to the Scottish Government and the coastguard about the topic was passed by councillors, with particular concern on the type utilised by mainly French and Spanish owned long liners and gill netters.

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