The Azores pole-and-line fishery has become the worlds first ‘plastic neutral’ fishery! As part of an annual ghost gear removal competition project in 2021, the fleet have removed more plastic fishing gear from the ocean, by weight, than it lost on an annual basis.
To be “plastic neutral” means to remove as much plastic from an environment as a person, or organisation contributes themselves. Achieving plastic neutrality has become a key goal among organisations around the world, particularly those closely associated with ocean plastics, such as fishing nets and lines. In order to obtain plastic neutral status, the International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF), in association with Azores Ocean Observatory (OMA), Azores Fisheries Observer Program (POPA), Associação de Produtores de Atum e Similares dos Açores (APASA), Federação das Pescas dos Açores (FPA) and the Institute of Marine Research (IMAR), developed a model for a ghost gear retrieval competition to be held among the Azores pole-and-line fleet.
POPA have been collecting data on the fishing gear loss rates of the pole-and-line fleet from 2019 until 2021. These findings evidenced that the entire one-by-one fleet only produces a total 0.5 kg of fishing gear related litter on an annual basis. Based on the above, and results of past competitions, IPNLF anticipated that the competition would result in at least 100kg of ghost gear being retrieved, and that the Azores fleet would attain “plastic neutral” status.
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