Fishing for Litter

Fishing for Litter aims to reduce marine litter by encouraging the fishing industry to collect ocean plastics, ghost gear, and other debris that gathers in their nets during normal fishing activities. 

TARGET USERS: Businesses, Industry, Government

KEY CONSIDERATIONS: All the fishermen who participate in the project are volunteers.



Every year, marine species become trapped or entangled in lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear. This “derelict gear” (fishing line, nets, and pots) continue to capture fish and wildlife while at sea, even if no fishermen retrieves the catch. Lost gear can also accumulate over time, creating islands of metal and rope, accounting for a large portion of ocean debris. Storms move these masses across the ocean floor, scouring fragile habitats like coral reefs and sea grass beds. Floating masses foul both vessels and active fishing gear, adversely impacting maritime industries.


Fishing for Litter aims to reduce marine litter by involving a key stakeholder: the fishing industry. Fishing boats are given large bags to collect plastics, ghost gear and other debris that gathers in their nets during normal fishing activities. When the fishing boats come into port, they can unload the bags of litter. These bags are collected regularly and rubbish is recycled or disposed of on land. 

From its humble beginnings at a single port in the Netherlands, Fishing for Litter has spread across Europe. OSPAR endorses Fishing for Litter and encourages its 15 member countries to adopt Fishing for Litter programs as part of its Regional Action Plan against marine litter. The EU’s revised Port Reception Facilities Directive will make specific provision for Fishing for Litter waste in order to encourage more vessels and more harbours to take part. 


The Netherlands
Fishing for Litter in the Netherlands started with a pilot in 2001. At that time 10 ships in the port of Den Helder participated. Since the start the fleet increased to 124 vessels. In 2015 a Green Deal Fishing for a Clean Sea was signed by fishermen and other stakeholders. In the Green Deal approach the national government works jointly together with stakeholders that are linked to an environmental problem to solve that problem. See

There are 19 harbours currently participating and providing cost free landing facilities for marine litter from fishing vessels. They encompass the whole of the Scottish coastline and are (anti-clockwise): Eyemouth, Dunbar, Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Macduff, Buckie, Scrabster, Lerwick, Cullivoe, Scalloway, Kinlochbervie, Ullapool, Mallaig, Tarbert, Rothesay, Campbeltown, Troon, Isle of Whithorn and Kirkcudbright. See

Currently, there are twelve participating Fishing for Litter harbours in the South West region of England that have been provided with dedicated waste collection facilities (West to East); Newlyn, St. Ives, Hayle, Newquay, Padstow, Mevagissey, Looe, Clovelly, Plymouth, Ilfracombe, Brixham and Salcombe. See

Established as a national test scheme in 2016-2017 with initialy 3 (4) participating harbours on the initiative of the Norwegian Environmental Agency. Extended with 5 ports during 2017. The FFL scheme was continued in 2018 and extended with 1 more port. Continued in 2019 with a total of nine participating ports along the Norwegian coast. Founded through the Norwegian Environmental Agency and administered by SALT Lofoten AS in collaboration with Nofir and local ports and waste management companies. See

From 2009-2010, in the Galician Rias (NW Spain), fishermen from different fleets brought the litter they collected in their nets during ordinary fishing operations ashore. Participants included fishing associations, CETMAR, the Ports of Galicia, Port of Vigo, Port of Marin and Port of Coruña. 152 vessels and six hundred fishermen participated in the project. See


Net-Works™ is an innovative program that is the product of an unlikely partnership between conservation charity the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and carpet-manufacturer Interface, with support from the American Chemistry Council (ACC). Net-Works™ has successfully developed a community-based supply chain for ghost fishing nets in three hubs in the central Philippines, with 26 associated community groups. Since the collection system was first piloted in one community in 2012 it has expanded to remove 100,000 kg of ghost fishing nets from the marine environment – the equivalent of 94,000km of fishing net – directly benefiting over 400 families and creating environmental benefits for over 55,000 people. See for more information. 

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