Fishermen across Cornwall and Devon have landed more than 50 tonnes of litter through the pioneering Fishing for Litter project.
Some 130 fishing vessels caught the marine litter in their fishing gear, and have brought it ashore.
The project provides vessels with large durable bags to collect marine litter. When full, these bags are deposited safely on the quayside, where the harbour authorities move them to a dedicated secure Fishing for Litter skip.
The scheme has been operational since March 2009, starting in Newlyn and steadily growing across south west ports to Brixham, Plymouth, Newquay, and Looe. A further four Cornish ports have just joined the project – St Ives, Mevagissey, Hayle and Padstow.
Alison Elvey de Rios, south west Fishing for Litter coordinator, said: “It’s great that this innovative, simply executed project, has landed over 50 tonnes of marine litter. The project’s momentum is growing year on year, and more fishermen are getting involved to help clean our seas.”
Millions of marine mammals, birds, turtles and fish perish as a result of entanglement or ingestion of deliberately or accidentally discarded debris.
Items commonly landed include pieces of plastic and polythene, rope and cord, nets, bottles, rubber, metals and textiles. If not recovered, these items could eventually end up destroying ecosystems or littering the region’s beaches and shoreline, which could also impact on the regions tourism sector.
Councillor Edwina Hannaford, Cornwall Council portfolio holder for environment, heritage and planning, added: “It’s wonderful to see the Fishing for Litter Partnership achieving excellent results, that is of real benefit to our maritime environment and to those who live and work alongside it.
“Cornwall’s beaches attract thousands of tourists each year, keeping them clean is very important; the waste collected by this project prevents it being washed ashore.”