Fishing for Litter explained

Deciding where to fish

Material litter hotspots are identified based on, among others, approaches by local contacts or stakeholders, pre-selection by project partners and analysis of recent news and studies.

Final decision on fishing for floating ocean debris depends on type, viability and quantity of waste available that can be collected, logistics both in terms of collection and transport to recyclers, results from onsite inspections and local conditions which may affect ability of trawl to collect waste.

Previous WFO marine plastic collection sites have included Barcelona, Porto, Rio de Janeiro and Cotes d'Armor France.

How to set up Fishing For Litter in your area


WFO works through partner organisation Europeche, which is the representative body for fishermen in the European Union. Europeche represents around 80,000 fishermen across Europe, including 16 member organisations across 10 member states. In Europe, fishing is regulated in order to prevent over-fishing and ensure sustainable ecosystems. Idle fishing times are thus a window of opportunity for fishermen to fish for litter.

Outside of this we also approach local-national fishermen organisations that work in the region of interest. An example is France, where the CNPMEM initially called on local representative bodies of the fishing industry. The initiative was marked by a strong sense of motivation and awareness of the need to preserve the marine environment.

In 2013, WFO successfully lobbied for fishermen who take part in FFL schemes to be financially compensated. Once an EU Member State has applied to make use of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), Article 40 stipulates that the EMFF supports “the collection of waste by fishermen from the sea such as the removal of lost fishing gear and marine litter”. In these member states, WFO helps fishermen to access these funds.

Rest of the World:

WFO approaches fishermen organisations within each region of interest either through known partners or directly gauging interest to collaborate on FFL schemes. Once contact has been established with fishing organisations, we inquire about the interest to use idle fishing times to fish for litter. WFO also tries to secure compensation for fishermen from nation/regional authorities for participating in FFL schemes. Once local partners have been approached, the collection trawl will be brought to the site and local fishermen will be trained how to use the trawl: installation of trawl, waste collection, removal of trawl from the water with the use of a crane.

Interest in FFL schemes

Reaction and interest in participation depends on many factors, such as priority of concern for marine litter, ability to secure compensation etc., and varies between locations and regions. However, previous FFL schemes have found that generally there is a lack of awareness from the fishermen for both the impacts associated with marine litter and their ability to clean up their oceans. Generally local fishermen and harbours appreciate the training to allow them to perform marine clean-ups in the future. Example: in 2015 the Catalan Waste Agency, the Fishermen’s Guild and Port of Barcelona set up a pilot FFL scheme, entitled “project Marviva”, based on the success of WFO’s FFL scheme in Barcelona in 2011. The fishermen trained by WFO in 2011 also participated in this project.