Waste management on fishing vessels is largely conducted out of sight from authorities and is largely influenced by the fishers themselves. A survey conducted by the Dept. of Fisheries and Ocean’s Small Craft Harbours found that nearly 600 thousand bait boxes, a common fisheries waste item, are discarded at sea annually by the industry.
Like any other business in Nova Scotia, Harbour Authorities are required to sort waste materials according to local recycling regulations; however, very few are within compliance. Garbage at the harbour, unmanageable sorting containers and overflowing bins are all examples of waste management challenges common at fishing harbours.
Out of our depths
Almost all fishing materials now contain at least some plastic. Floating marine debris is a navigational hazard for vessels, entangles and suffocates marine species; ingestion causes starvation or malnutrition; the toxins can cause reproductive failure in fish, shellfish, or any marine life, and find their way up the food chain, to humans. Studies are showing a correlation between plastic and shell-fish disease in lobster, affecting the quality of the lobster and its productivity.
When we spoke to fishers in Nova Scotia, they told us they care about reducing their impact on the ocean. Here’s why:
- They want to protect the fishing industry for future generations and sustain the economy and heritage of fishing communities (goes hand in hand)
- They want to protect the marine environment and ensure a healthy and thriving ocean environment
- Morally it’s the “right thing to do” and “common sense”
- Community pride – this matters to them
But obviously their good intentions are not enough. There are some serious barriers to doing the right thing. Ship-to-Shore addresses these issues by working along side fishers, guided by a Marine Waste Committee, comprised of the fishing industry, all levels of government including Small Craft Harbours (DFO), Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture and Municipal Waste Educators.
Through Ship-to-Shore we addressed:
- Lack of environmental education / lack of material knowledge. For example, the fact that the bait boxes are not a biodegradable material, but are lined with plastic.
- No space on vessel to store waste (recyclables, garbage and hazardous waste)
- Sorting confusion – not knowing where, or having the correct facilities to properly dispose of fishing waste on land
- Bad habits ( growing up not following proper waste management practices/bad habits hard to break)