“Those in the fishing industry fully appreciate the potential threats posed by marine litter.”
Scientists in England and France will work to develop biodegradable fishing gear that can be used by both small and large boats across the industry.
They will also look to enhance the recycling of collected marine plastics, so that it doesn’t either remain in the oceans or become a problem once again in the future.
The INdIGO (INnovative fIshing Gear for Ocean) project has received €2.9million from the Interreg VA France (Channel) England (FCE) European Programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The University of Plymouth and the University of South Brittany will be teaming up to lead the project.
Of that, €540,000 will be coming to Plymouth where researchers, working alongside Cornish company Odyssey Innovation, will focus on the recycling of salvaged nets and the establishment of an international recycling network.
Dr Jasper Graham-Jones, Associate Professor in Mechanical and Marine Engineering, is leading the Plymouth element of the project, which will build on the University’s world leading reputation for marine litter research and impact.
He has volunteered for the lifeboat service in Hayling Island and Looe since 1998 and the HM Coastguard since 2011. He has also recently been re-elected as a Looe Harbour Commissioner, both of which have seen him work closely with the fishing industry.
He said: “Those in the fishing industry fully appreciate the potential threats posed by marine litter. They also know they have a role to play in tackling it, if they want to protect their livelihoods and enable the industry to become more sustainable.
“However, they need support to achieve that, and that is where the INdIGO project can make a real difference. There have been a few initiatives looking at this previously, but until now they have been quite small scale.
“By working with colleagues in the UK and France, and the industry, we can create a positive change on both sides of the Channel.”
Led by the University of South Brittany, the INdIGO project will reduce the total quantity of plastic present in the FCE area by 3% through the development of biodegradable fishing gear, by improving water quality and maintaining biodiversity.
It will cover the production chain of the fishing gear from formulation, filament manufacturing to prototype net development, with durability tests, technical and economic analysis then being undertaken.
Researchers will also complete a lifecycle analysis to avoid pollution transfer, while the involvement of SMEs will ensure the economic sustainability of the project by exploiting the results of the project.
This expertise of the sector will enable INdIGO to develop products that are adapted to the needs of the market and competitive with current alternatives, while reducing their impact on the environment.
Graham-Jones said: “The South West of England is home to one of the biggest fishing communities along the English Channel so we are perfectly placed to tackle this issue.
“But it will require a massive cultural shift. It was once normal to leave discarded nets at sea, but now there is a growing recognition that it is dangerous for divers but also has a long-lasting impact on the ocean and the creatures living within it. We have to be able to persuade people to bring their nets home, and one way to do that could be to convert disused nets into some other product that people will want.”