Azores fishery becomes first to achieve “plastic-neutral” status

Fishermen in the Azores pole-and-line fishery.

A pole-and-line fishery in Portugal's Azores Archipelago has become the world’s first “plastic neutral” fishery.

The "plastic-neutral" designation was developed by the International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF), in association with the Azores Ocean Observatory, POPA, Associação de Produtores de Atum e Similares dos Açores, Federação das Pescas dos Açores, and the Institute of Marine Research, based on ghost-gear retrieval. To become plastic neutral, a fishery must remove as much or more fishing gear than it discards, loses, or abandons in the marine environment annually.

On April 22, IPNLF announced the Azorean fleet has officially removed more plastic fishing gear from the ocean, by weight, than it loses per annum.

The Azores Fisheries Observer Program (POPA) have been collecting data on fishing-gear loss of the pole-and-line fishery from 2019 until 2021, and estimated the entire fleet only produces a total of 0.5 kilograms of fishing gear-related litter on an annual basis.

From June to September 2021, the IPNLF tracked POPA's project as a pilot event. POPA's vessels were instructed to collect ghost gear and marine litter on fishing trips, where the weight and type of collected debris was recorded by onboard observers, who collected photographs for evidence. Lotaçor, an Azorean public-owned organization that supports the fishing sector, then disposed of the collected ghost gear.

The fleet collectively removed 452.1 kilograms of marine plastic litter, including buoys, nylon cables, and multifilament nets.

IPNLF said it plans to run similar competitions elsewhere globally in the future.. For now, the Azores Ghost Gear Retrieval Competition has been confirmed for the next two years as a result of support from Biocoop France and sustainability brand Fish4Ever.  

Photo courtesy of the Azores Fisheries Observer Program


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