The fishing industry is one of the most impacted economic sectors by marine litter. However, the sector is also part of the problem since it has been estimated that over 45% of plastic debris found in the ocean are related to Abandoned, Lost or otherwise Discarded Fishing Gears (ALDFG) by the fisheries industry. ALDFG are a significant component of marine litter, which has trans-boundary impacts in large marine ecosystems. Such ‘ghost nets’ not only have negative effects on marine ecosystems (e.g. by-catch of marine fauna) but also cause a significant impact on other coastal activities such as commercial fishing and shellfishing industries, leading to important social-ecological consequences. Fishers lose millions of euros every year, and although the problem is widely known at all levels, current scientific evidence of the socioeconomic aspects of marine litter in Portugal and Spain is still scarce. Therefore, the objectives of the NetTag project was to assess the perceptions of the most relevant stakeholders related to marine litter in the fisheries sector in NW Portugal and Galicia (NW Spain). This information is highly valuable as it provides key aspects about the implementation viability of NetTag approaches.
To gather relevant information and perceptions from fishers, 37 semi-structured interviews and two participatory workshops were conducted with fishers. In addition, 12 other key stakeholders from NGOs and fisheries management institutions were invited to participatory workshops.
Our results show that, in general, fishers and other stakeholders agree with the need of implementing awareness and educational actions for fishers. However, there was more variability on the acceptance of the technological proposals, as fishers’ perceptions differ in relation to the current expenses depending on fishing gear. Trawling fishers show more interest in technological solutions, while artisanal fisheries were barely interested. This interest was mostly related to fishers with more expensive gears. Anyway, results should be interpreted with caution as more in-depth surveys would be necessary to determine detailed aspects that could vary the results about fishers’ perceptions. The development and improvement of some features of the technological solutions might open new scenarios where more interest could manifest.