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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency


Tagging fishing gears and enhancing on board best-practices to promote waste free fisheries

NetTag ship

Marine litter is a growing and critical environmental problem. The fishing industry is a major contributor to marine litter, with over 45% of plastic debris biomass found in the ocean being associated to abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gears (ALDFG). ALDFG is a key issue for fisheries and marine conservation due to ghost fishing, stock depletion, capture of non-target species, (micro)plastics pollution to sea life and hazards to other vessels. 

NetTag project aims to reduce and prevent marine litter derived from fisheries by working directly with fishers through an integrative preventive approach including:

  • reducing lost gear by using new technologies (acoustic localisation system) that help fishermen to locate and recover lost gear;
  • promoting better practices on the management of fishing waste through awareness raising actions organised by fishers associations for fishermen

As part of its project deliverables, NetTag designed and produced a new technological device, currently under testing phase, for the location and recovery of fishing gear under water. This prototype device detects fishing gear through acoustic transponder tags and autonomously approaches and recovers lost gear. It has been designed around minimal hardware costs and complexity to allow its deployment by any vessel, including small inflatable ones.

The project is conducting studies to assess the environmental impact of ALD fishing gear and the social economic impact of marine litter. The first results showed that fishing gear has the potential of releasing micro plastics and absorbing pollutants such as metals and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), but more studies are needed in this area.

NetTag project is very active in awareness raising actions, in particular with Spanish and Portuguese fishermen. Through their workshops, webinars, podcasts and other initiatives such as the Clean Ocean Day, they not only raise awareness within the fishing industry and other stakeholders about the urgent need to combat marine litter but they also increase scientific knowledge on the subject. They directly engage fishermen and discuss best practices for reducing marine litter from their fishing activities. 

On the Clean Ocean Day held on 30 April 2021, 320 kg of marine litter have been collected by Galician fishermen during one day: Clean Ocean Day 2021 ¡Limpiamos o mar! - YouTube




Associação Pró-Maior Segurança dos Homens do Mar (Portugal) (APMSHM)