‘Take 5’ campaign to tackle litter and plastic pollution in the UK’s aquatic environment

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18 Feb

This article is part of a series dedicated to national associations’ initiatives to tackle the problem of litter and plastic pollution in Europe’s seas and rivers. For this article, we introduce the UK’s ‘Take 5’ campaign.

The Angling Trust’s ‘Take 5’ campaign aims to tackle the issue of litter and plastic pollution in freshwater and marine environments, which causes irreversible damages to wildlife. Its principle is quite practical and straightforward: asking every angler in the country either to take 5 items of litter on his or her way home, or to take 5 minutes to remove any litter after fishing. In doing so, the national governing body representing all game, coarse and sea anglers in England – which is a member of EAA – is confident that it can make a huge difference in reducing the problem of throwaway plastic.
According to a Joint Research Centre technical report from 2016, litter is an increasing problem in rivers, lakes, canals, seas and estuaries. The marine environment is especially affected by the issue of widespread plastic pollution. Its most visible and disturbing impacts are the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species such as fish. Usually, the latter mistake plastic waste for prey and most die of starvation as their stomachs are filled with plastic debris. Marine plastic litter breaks down into micro particles which fish ingest and when eaten, enter the human food chain. In addition, floating plastics also contribute to the spread of invasive marine organisms and bacteria, which disrupt entire ecosystems.

Based on that observation, Angling Trust launched this campaign throughout the country in order to take full advantage of the “army of millions of volunteers”, who go fishing every year and represent potential hands to pick-up litter. It is estimated that if every angler in the country supported the ‘Take 5’ campaign just once over the course of a year, no less than 15 million items of litter could be removed from the United Kingdom’s shores, which could make a difference.
With the help of the Environment Agency, and supported by funding from fishing licence sales, not only does this campaign aim at raising awareness about the importance to preserve marine wildlife, but it also gives an added impetus to start a cleaning movement amongst members of the angling community through local clubs or fisheries that will benefit generations to come.
In the end, “strength lies in numbers” as one could say. This campaign might and should inspire other suchlike initiatives to blossom in Europe, in order to turn the tide on the increasing amount of litter found on European riverbanks and beaches.
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