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Superb Idea: Pay Fishermen to Catch Trash

A pilot project will begin this month which will pay fishermen to ease up on taxed European fish stocks and catch plastic trash instead.

If you've been following the news about our poor oceans you know they're getting stripped of fish and filled with plastic debris at the same time. We usually think of these problems as independent of each other, but maybe there's a way to tackle them both at once.

In European fishing waters, up to two thirds of caught fish, usually already dead, are thrown back by fleets who've surpassed their quota or want to make room for a higher value fish. Called "discarding," it's a wasteful practice that puts extra strain on fish stocks, and the European Union's fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, wants to ban it.

But fishermen have complained that such a ban would harm their livelihoods. So Damanaki came up with a novel plan: Pay these fishermen for catching plastic trash. After all, our oceans have plenty of that. A pilot project will begin this month in the Mediterranean. Fishermen will be given special nets and other equipment for catching plastic debris that's collected in the sea and bringing the junk back to shore for recycling.

The EU will subsidize the program at first (there's no word how much money the fishermen will be paid) but the hope is that over the long run, as recycling plastic gets more profitable, the trash becomes a valuable catch in itself. If this pilot program proves successful, it could serve as a model for saving our oceans without sacrificing our fishermen.

Image from Hugh's Fish Fight

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