Protecting the environment has always been a key priority for European anglers as clean waters and healthy fish stocks are crucial to a good fishing experience. Anglers widely acknowledge the big threat that plastic pollution represents to freshwaters and to oceans and that is why anglers’ associations engage and undertake initiatives to avoid negative impact on the ecosystems.
Plastic pollution is one of the main challenges of our time and the aquatic environment is already paying a high price considering that 5 to 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year of which 150 000 to 500 000 tonnes in the EU alone1. Marine plastic waste is not only a big environmental problem, but it also negatively affects aquatic animals, human health and is detrimental to the ecosystems.
The European Union is at the forefront of the fight against plastic pollution and the European Commission proposed back in 2018 a comprehensive “Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy”2 to transform the way plastic products are designed, produced, used and recycled. Boosting the rate of plastic recycling is an essential aspect of the strategy that aims to ensure that all plastic packaging on the EU market is recyclable by 2030.
Anticipating the adoption of European legislation, anglers have already taken initiatives to make sure that their old fishing lines are disposed of in the appropriate way. Going further than that, a number of initiatives aimed at giving a second life to old fishing lines have been recently launched in Europe and worldwide.
One of the most successful projects, the Anglers national line recycling scheme has been launched in the UK in 2018 to collect and recycle fishing lines that would otherwise end up in incinerators and landfills. The idea is simple: to provide anglers with easy ways to deposit their waste lines such as bins located in tackle shops and fishing venues. The collected lines are recycled and employed in the production of different items such as traffic cones, sunglasses, skateboards, wetsuits and even swimwear.
There are already more than 300 deposits across the UK and the scheme secured the support of some important partners including the Angling Trust, the main UK anglers’ association. In order to support the expansion of the project to other countries, the European Anglers Alliance has also sponsored the participation of the scheme to EFTTEX, the biggest fishing tackle trade exhibition taking place in Europe.
The fight against plastic pollution and the transition towards a more circular economy will remain a high priority in the EU in the following years. Indeed, the European Commission already declared that the circular economy will be “the number one priority” for the European Green Deal3, the ambitious programme announced by the incoming EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, with the objective of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent. Acting to tackle the issue of marine litter must also remain high on the European agenda but all legislation should be evidence-based in order to ensure that all sectors contribute in a fair and appropriate way.
On its side, the European Anglers Alliance will continue to support all actions and schemes aimed at further reducing the impact of angling on the environment such as volunteer recycling schemes, riverbanks and beaches cleaning as well as initiatives aimed at pushing the tackle trade to become more sustainable by ditching single-use plastic4.