Fishing and Aquaculture gear – Focus on Scottish industries

Resource Futures undertook several studies for the Scottish Government to understand fishing and aquaculture gear use and waste management in greater detail, focusing on the large industries of aquaculture and creel pot fishers. This work provides a significant new evidence base, and insight on potential solutions to tackle marine litter and manage difficult products at end-of-life.

Objectives

Fishing and aquaculture industries are diverse and complex, and make a significant contribution to the local and national economy. There are excellent examples of circular economy practice in these industries but also serious challenges in waste management, and a recent study of beach litter samples found that, by weight, 40% of plastic beach litter was fishing gear.

Better understanding of the products and waste is needed for government to support best practice and address the causes of marine litter. The aim of these research studies was to establish national estimates of gear use, waste arisings, and waste management practice. The work reveals the current situation in Scotland, and the broad range of existing practice, and it enables future planning to improve waste management for these often difficult waste streams.

Approach

These projects developed an inventory of fishing and aquaculture gear for these key industries in Scotland with estimates of gear in use, in storage, and annual waste arisings. Data on common types of gear, material and weight composition, and lifespan were collected via desk-based research and site visits and scaled to produce a national gear inventory using estimates of average gear use and data on fishing fleets and aquaculture sites.

Until now, there has been limited clarity on the volume of fishing and aquaculture gear in use across Scotland as well as distinctions around the components, material composition and weights of gear used.

The study focused on two key industries. Scotland’s aquaculture sector relies on complex gear systems: large, heavy equipment which is made of mixed materials and deployed into marine and freshwater environments. Inshore fisheries make up a significant proportion of Scotland’s commercial fishing fleet, with many fishers operating static gear – specifically pots and creels – to target shellfish species such as brown and velvet crab, lobster, and nephrops (langoustine/prawn).

Outcomes

The new data on fishing and aquaculture gear collected in this project will allow policy makers to have a clearer picture on the volume of material that will require waste management and recycling solutions for products at end-of-life.  The data will be combined with other studies to provide an overview at a UK level.

Marine Scotland commissioned this work to provide an evidence base to policy development.  Resource Futures has produced a thorough report, reflecting considerable stakeholder engagement, data collection and analysis.  The effort that has gone into this information gathering has been exceptional given the timing of this project over the pandemic.   The outputs are invaluable and will be used to inform actions which will make a real difference to our marine industries and environment.

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