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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 April, 2004, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Trawlermen to net rubbish at sea
Skipper Donald Anderson shows off some of the debris he collected
Skipper Donald Anderson shows off some of the debris he collected
Fishermen from Scotland's largest port have got on board a scheme aimed at netting rubbish at sea.

Nine boats in Peterhead are the first on the UK mainland to join the Save the North Sea campaign to collect litter.

Skippers can find everything from plastic and rope to washing machines and shopping trolleys in their nets.

They will bring ashore debris they catch under the Fishing for Litter scheme, which aims to tackle the problem of marine litter.

It is part of the Save the North Sea campaign run by KIMO International - an association of local authorities founded in Denmark.

Oil filters
Paint tins
Pots and pans
Washing machines
The push aims to help the environment, reduce the risk of damage to fishing gear and avoid contamination of catches.

A KIMO report, published in 2000, studied Shetland fishermen and calculated their annual financial loss caused by marine litter could be as much as 30,000 for each boat.

The cash loss is estimated through net repairs, contamination of catches, fouled propellers and fishing time lost because the fishermen are spending time clearing their nets of debris.

Rick Nickerson, KIMO's UK coordinator, said crews usually had to deal with items like plastic containers and rope.

However, skippers said it was not unusual to discover washing machines, bikes and shopping trolleys.

Seabird victims

The first bag of rubbish brought back by a boat on Thursday contained an oil filter, paint tin and a household battery.

"These items can contaminate the actual fish in the net, so that is a loss of income to them," said Mr Nickerson.

"Paint tins and oil filters can actually affect the net itself, which means that it has to be cleaned or replaced."

Wellington boot caught in nets
The campaign aims to give North Sea debris the boot
The launch of the scheme in the north east harbour coincides with a seabird study, which suggests 96% of North Sea fulmars have plastic in their stomachs.

Spokesman for Save the North Sea, John Mouat, said: "As the fulmar study demonstrates, marine litter can be costly not only to fishermen, but also to the health of marine animals - such as birds and seals."

He went on: "The co-operation of Peterhead shows the north east's commitment to improve the marine environment and reduce the problem of marine litter."

Trawlerman John Watt, of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, added: "Marine litter in the North Sea needs to be tackled head on.

"The fact that Peterhead fishermen are taking steps to combat this issue shows how seriously the Scottish fishing industry takes the problem and is to be welcomed."

It was Shetland fishermen who led the way in the UK in the wake of the KIMO dossier four years ago, when they became the first to join the maritime clean-up campaign.

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