The Cornish Plastic Pollution Coalition have started a competition to find a solution to what they say is 'one of the most pervasive forms of marine litter washing up on South West beaches'.
They are worried about so-called ‘fishermen’s kisses’ or small off-cuts of net that are often blown or washed into the sea when nets are being fixed.
Campaigners say while many fishermen collect plastic and other waste from the sea the industry also litters the oceans - a video (above) reveals 10,000 pieces of net were collected in a few recent trips to Whitsand Bay in South East Cornwall.
The coalition warn the pieces of nets often turn into microplastic fibres, which can be ingested by fish and even smaller creatures such as plankton. Claire Wallerstein, from beach cleaning group Rame Peninsula Beach Care which is part of the coalition, said: "We know most fishermen care a lot about the marine environment, and many are also already doing an amazing job through schemes like Fishing for Litter, which enables them to bring back large amounts of the plastics and other waste that come up in their nets. "This scheme has already seen over 224 tonnes of marine litter brought back ashore for safe disposal since it was launched in the south west in 2008. "This can make ‘fishermen’s kisses’ - the little pieces cut away when nets are being fixed - seem very small and insignificant. "Over time these small pieces have built up to become one of the commonest items of waste found littering our beaches.
"Nets, especially trawl nets, can be damaged when they are snagged on reefs or rocks on the seabed, meaning they often need fixing.
"Sometimes fishermen have to do this quickly in cramped and difficult conditions on-board their vessels, sometimes with the decks awash.
"Larger mends are often done back on shore on harbour sides.
"We know that fishermen work really hard, often in difficult and dangerous conditions, and it's easy to see how these little bits of net can be overlooked when a net needs to be fixed quickly so it can get back fishing again.
"We also know that fishermen are often too busy to get down to the beach, so they don’t necessarily see what we beach cleaners find on the shoreline.
"Although they often pull up plastic in their nets, this is usually the dense, heavy plastics from the sea bed - while it’s the lighter, floating pieces that are washed ashore in huge amounts.
"We hope this film will help to ‘bring the beach to the fishermen’, and give a better idea of the impact that these seemingly insignificant bits of net can have.
"The problem is not just that net waste washed up on beaches doesn’t look nice - it can also directly harm marine animals.
"Researchers on Mullion Island off the Lizard in Cornwall recently found large numbers of rolled-up balls of net off-cuts that had been eaten and then regurgitated by gulls in the colony there.
"Larger pieces can entangle and harm other animals. For example, over 300 of Cornwall’s grey seals have been observed with different types of plastic, often cut-away sections of net, tightly entangled around their necks.
"Over time, net pieces can also break down into micro-plastic fibres, which can be ingested by fish and even smaller creatures such as plankton.
"Fishermen know their own boats and the challenges of their job better than anyone else, so we’re hoping they can come up with some really good, workable solutions for ways of stopping so much of this waste ending up where nobody wants it, in the marine environment." For more details click here