Catching Plastic: Fishermen on Frontline of Ocean Clean-up

    08 March 2020

    A group of Spanish fishermen will receive financial support to catch plastic as well as fish. It is part of a new project aimed at fighting the huge amount of waste left in the world's oceans.

    About 12 million tons of plastic waste are entering the oceans every year. This garbage pollutes the water, kills wildlife and breaks down into small particles -- called microplastics -- that fish and other creatures eat.

    Ocean Plastics Fishermen - USAGM
    Ocean Plastics Fishermen - USAGM

    Carlos Martin is one of the fishermen taking part in the project. Martin is captain of the ‘Bonamar 2,' a boat based at the Spanish port of Barcelona. VOA joined him and his crew early one morning as they began removing pieces of plastic from their fishing nets.

    Martin blames rivers for carrying a lot of plastic to the sea.

    Martin says he and his crew collect the solid plastic and bring it back to land. He adds that wood-based cellulose plastic often gets caught in the nets.

    He says, "The net does not function properly in relation to its height in the water, and it takes on mud, causing the net to break because it weighs so much."

    Under the new programs, one million euros of taxpayer's money will support ocean cleanup efforts for fishermen like Martin. The money is coming from the European Union and the Catalan government.

    Sergi Tudela, the General Director of Catalonia Fisheries, is supervising the cleanup project.

    "With these funds, they can improve what they need to carry onboard - the boxes, all the facilities they need to cope with the problem...We are hopeful that if we are successful in this project, this project could be replicated in other areas in the Mediterranean."

    Government reports that the amount of plastic waste washing up along the Spanish coastline has grown by 65 percent in just six years. Martin says the fishing community now understands how big the problem is.

    He says, "Before we didn't see it that way, we took it and threw it back into the water, we had no conscience. I think that a few years here we have become very aware, nothing is thrown into the water, we collect everything and bring it to shore."

    Fishing equipment makes up a large part of the estimated 8 to 12 million tons of plastic left in the world's oceans every year. Martin and his fishing community look to become part of the international effort to clean up the oceans.

    I'm Jonathan Evans.

    Henry Ridgwell reported this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    conscience – n. the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong

    function – v. to work or operate

    funds – n. an amount of money that is used for a special purpose

    mud – n. soft, wet dirt

    net – n. a fabric made of strands of thread, cord, rope, or wire that weave in and out with much open space

    onboard – adj. carried or happening on a vehicle

    properly – adv. in a way that is acceptable or suitable

    replicate(d) – v. to repeat or copy something exactly