Fishing For Litter South West

Fishing for Litter is one of the most innovative and successful projects to tackle marine litter at sea, the simple initiative aims to reduce marine litter by engaging one of the key stakeholders, the fishing industry. It raises awareness of marine litter within the fishing industry, local communities and with school children.

The project's main aims are:

  1. To maintain a network of harbours and fishing vessels around the South West so participating boats can land the marine litter they've caught in their fishing gear;
  2. To change the working practices within the fishing industry, to help prevent litter reaching the marine environment in the first place;
  3. To highlight the impacts of marine litter.

The idea is simple, participating vessels are given hardwearing bags to collect marine litter caught in their fishing gear while undertaking normal fishing activity. Filled bags are deposited on the quayside and staff at participating harbours then move the bags to dedicated skips for monitoring, collection and disposal. Skips are kept locked to prevent misuse.

Fishing for Litter does not collect operational or galley waste generated on board, which is the responsibility of the vessels, as it continues to go through normal harbour waste management systems.

South West Harbours

Currently, there are twelve  participating Fishing for Litter harbours in the South West 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.


The project has 160 registered member vessels. The majority of the marine litter recovered is brought in by the larger vessels working towed gear e.g. Beam trawlers and Demersal trawlers however the project engages vessels of all sizes and gear type, to support and encourage best practice.

Tonnage of Litter

Since the project started in the South West in 2009, Fishing for Litter has facilitated and funded the recovery of more than 200 tonnes of marine litter. The volume of lightweight plastic items is much higher than initially anticipated; forming 88% of all items surveyed during the last phase of the project. The overall tonnage of marine litter recovered by fishermen in Cornwall and Devon is considerably higher, since some items with a value e.g. scrap metal are often segregated out.


Tonnes of marine litter collected by SW fishing industry


Harbours involved in the scheme collecting litter


Vessels signed up to the scheme in the South West


Organisations and funds that have sponsored the project to date (2008 - 2015) are shown below. 

The project has secured sufficient funding to enable it to continue until January 2021. We are currently seeking new funding partners to enable the project to continue beyond this date.


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