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Recycling in the fisheries sector: key to cleaning up our seas

European Parliament urges the to reduce marine litter

Parliament has stated that increasing recycling in the fisheries sector and substantially reducing the use of plastics are the key to cleaning up our seas. In a non-legislative resolution adopted on Thursday 25 March with 646 votes in favor, 3 against and 39 abstentions, MEPs stress that marine litter, and especially micro and nano plastics, "pose a serious threat to many species of marine fauna", thus as for fishermen and consumers. An average consumer of shellfish in the Mediterranean ingests on average 11,000 pieces of plastic per year and, due to marine pollution, a loss of revenue in the fishing sector is estimated between 1 and 5%. Fishing and aquaculture waste account for 27% of marine litter. Therefore, the Parliament urged the EU to accelerate the development of a circular economy in this sector, gradually eliminating expanded polystyrene packaging and improving the collection and recycling channels for marine litter. In addition, research into sustainable materials and new designs for fishing gear is crucial.

Only 1.5% of fishing gears are recycled in the EU and many other gears are abandoned, lost, or thrown into the sea, where "they remain intact for months or even years". These so-called ghost nets "have an indiscriminate impact on all marine fauna, including fish stocks". To tackle this problem, MEPs asked the Commission and EU countries to adopt voluntary guidelines from the United Nations food and agriculture organization for the marking of fishing gear. Finally, the Parliament asked for an EU action plan to substantially reduce the use of plastic and to tackle the pollution of rivers, waterways and coasts, underlining that 80% of marine litter arrives by land and that it is carried out more research on the impact of marine litter and micro and nano plastics on fish resources.

Rapporteur Catherine Chabaud said: “Marine litter is a cross-cutting issue that needs to be addressed holistically. The fight against marine litter does not start at sea, but must involve an upstream view that encompasses the entire life cycle of a product. Any waste that ends up in the sea is a product that has emerged from the cycle of the circular economy. To combat marine pollution, we must continue to promote virtuous business models and integrate new sectors such as fisheries and aquaculture into these global efforts. There is no sustainable fishing without a healthy ocean". Only 1% of the plastic in the ocean floats on the surface, while most of it ends up in the deep sea. The resolution specifies that 730 tons every day of waste are dumped directly in the Mediterranean while every year an additional 11,200 tons of plastic discharged into the environment ends up in the Mediterranean.

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EFA News - European Food Agency