New phase of international project launched at Isle of Whithorn

Cllr. Alastair Geddes and MSP Aileen McLeod put their weight and support behind the "Fishing for Litter" campaign at a recent public meeting in the Isle of Whithorn. GG 3005067 11
Cllr. Alastair Geddes and MSP Aileen McLeod put their weight and support behind the "Fishing for Litter" campaign at a recent public meeting in the Isle of Whithorn. GG 3005067 11

A NEW phase of the Fishing for Litter scheme was launched at the Isle of Whithorn on Friday 27 May and was well supported by fishermen, members of the community and related organisations.

Aileen McLeod, the newly elected SNP South of Scotland list MSP, came along to lend her encouragement to the local expansion of this innovative international initiative.

Councillor Alistair Geddes said: “I am delighted that a grant from Wigtown Area Committee has enabled this scheme to go ahead on a trial basis for a year. Marine litter is a global problem and I am very pleased that the fishing community at the Isle of Whithorn is playing an active part in tackling the issue.”

Marion Sunderland, Chair of Isle of Whithorn Community Council, along with many other local people, attended to find out more about how the project works and lend their support.

Fishing for Litter is an international scheme involving provision of dedicated disposal facilities at a network of harbours in Scotland and northern Europe. Commercial fishermen are provided with large bags so that any litter hauled in with the catch can be stored until it is landed. The scheme is led by KIMO, an organisation that tackles marine pollution by working with around 150 European local authorities. KIMO also contributes to marine litter policy development and carries out research on the impacts of litter on the marine environment.

Tom Piper, KIMO UK Co-ordinator, who gave an informative presentation at last Friday’s event said: “Marine litter can have devastating effects on wildlife, costs the fishing industry money in downtime when gear becomes entangled, and often ends up on beaches where it detracts from scenic coastlines. The vast majority of litter is plastic which never biodegrades; it simply breaks down into small pieces which pollute the marine environment for ever more. This launch marks a new phase of the Fishing for Litter project in Scotland.”

Shaun McGuire, Habourmaster at the Isle of Whithorn has been delighted by the uptake at the Isle of Whithorn already with more skippers joining at Friday’s launch: “The first to sign up was Andrew Lochhead, a local crab and lobster fisherman who skippers Bright Horizon, closely followed by James Kyle, Michael McGuire, Domhnall MacLachlainn, Eric McIllwraith and Paul Maguire who all skipper vessels working in the local area.”

Fishing for Litter has been strongly supported by the local fishing fleet and Dumfries and Galloway Council for several years at Kirkcudbright. Harbourmaster, Peter Roberts, and local skipper, Steven Girgan, who both attended Friday’s event, have been central to its success there. The involvement of a second harbour in the region further demonstrates the commitment of local fishermen to good environmental stewardship.

Friday’s event concluded with a buffet showcasing the excellent crab, lobster, scallop and other seafood landed locally - expertly prepared by Alistair Scoular’s team at the Steam Packet in the Isle of Whithorn.

Pam Taylor of Solway Firth Partnership said: “There is an opportunity to capitalise on the value the fishing sector brings to the local area by making more use of our high quality seafood, increasing understanding of the industry and improving interpretation at our ports and harbours which are such a focal point of coastal towns and villages.”

Nic Coombey, well known for his work on community projects in Dumfries and Galloway, kindly loaned his ‘Flotsam Faces’ to help illustrate the marine litter issue at the event. The weird and wonderful faces are made from beach litter mounted in fish boxes – all collected from the local shoreline.