A group of 12 divers is set to head to Shetland later this year in a bid to recover lost or discarded fishing gear and help to clean up the seas around the isles, reports Hans Marter.

The work will be undertaken through the conservation charity Ghost Fishing UK, which won the Sustainability Award at last year’s Fishing News Awards.

The charity will visit Shetland between 6 and 11 August, with the volunteer divers due to go onboard the Orkney-based MV Valhalla.

“We are unique as a conservation charity in that we work with the fishing community to try and clean up our oceans and maintain a healthy habitat, not just for resources but for wildlife,” charity secretary Christine Grosart told Shetland News.

She said the charity fundraises all year round to support these projects due to the cost of chartering dive boats.

Any lost fishing gear recovered around Shetland will be sorted and washed, and recyclable materials such as polypropylene will be sent to Ocean Plastic Pots in Glasgow for recycling into its award- winning plant pots.

“Any lost creels we recover will be returned to the fishing community for reuse,” Christine Grosart said.

“We will be sorting and washing and preparing the nets for recycling as we go along, so it would be fantastic to have some helpers on the quayside at Lerwick to roll their sleeves up and give us a hand.”

The charity has sponsors and partners lined up, who will be disclosed nearer the time.

It also intends to hold an outreach event to allow people to find out more about the charity, which launched in 2015.

The issue of marine pollution through discarded fishing gear is nothing new for Shetland.

In 2020, Shetland Islands Council called on the Scottish government to address the issue.

Last year the local authority also wrote to the government to request a ban on the use of gill-netting by boats over 15m in Scottish waters, due to the quantity of monofilament plastic netting being discarded in the water by foreign vessels, posing a continued threat both to wildlife and to other vessels. The nets are regularly dragged up by local fishing boats.

In Shetland, around 58t of marine litter has been brought ashore by local fishing vessels through the Fishing for Litter scheme since it launched locally in 2014, with more than 30 boats now involved.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.

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