PHILLIP Island Nature Parks alongside South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association have rolled out 100 all-weather proof bins on commercial fishing boats, as part of the Bins on Boats Program since the trial in 2018.
Created to stop commercial fishing rubbish from going overboard, the bins were happily taken on board by local fishing vessels as a sustainable fishing practice for the future.
“We had 100 specially designed bins on vessels and early signs show it has reduced the trawl net fragments that were entangling seals,” research scientist, Dr Rebecca McIntosh said.
“We’re very optimistic and excited by that.
“It was a great partnership working with industry – fishers love the bins, they were happy to use them, and effectively gave them an organised way of dealing with their waste that was more successful than what they were trying to do left to their own devices.
“It’s really important to them to maintain and work within the social licence.
“They’re small-scale fishers, local people, they love the sea they’re working on and a majority of those are highly invested and excited in the project.”
As per the Bins on Boats – Final Report November 2021 ‘all qualifying vessels accepted at least one bin and there was rapid uptake. Despite not qualifying, fisheries managers and co-ops in NSW and WA were interested in the project. This shows an appetite for custom built bins to improve waste management systems nationally.’
‘The custom-made bins offered an improved bin that was useful and safe to use on the deck of the boats.’
Reducing accidental loss of rubbish from marine environment users to reduce marine waste and marine mammal entanglements – the principle of Bins on Boats.
“Fishers genuinely care for the ocean environment we make our living from,” Trawler and Gillnetter Luke Hill said.
“The bin program will help in the waste management procedures we already have in place on board our vessel.”
A successful program, with skippers reporting a general overall happiness with the bins, it did highlight further issues in the marine industry with one vessel master commentating ‘that it is hard to empty them when port waste capture facilities are already full.’
On a larger scale, the economic cost is staggering.
‘In 2015 there was an estimated US$10.8 billion of damage per annum to industries in the marine economy of Asia-Pacific attributable to marine debris (McIlgorm et al. 2020). In Australia there are uncertainties with regard to the cost of marine debris to fisheries and small businesses (Evans et al. 2016),’ the report highlighted.
The statistics from the Bins on Boats showed that on average, vessels’ waste volumes increased by about 20L when using the bins compared to before.
As Rebecca noted, ‘on any given day at Seal Rocks there can be as many as 11 individual fur seals entangled in marine plastic pollution.
Pups and juveniles are most commonly entangled because they are naïve and playful. As they grow, the restrictive material becomes embedded, causing painful infections and a slow death, often from starvation.
“It’s a terrible way to die. The entangled seals are often in a lot of pain and it is very difficult to catch them in the colony because they run into the water when they see a person approaching,” Rebecca said.
“Phillip Island Nature Parks catches many affected seals to remove the entanglement, but it’s a band-aid on the wider problem of marine plastic pollution. We need to get to the heart of the problem and reduce the amount of plastic entering the ocean.
“I’m optimistic, it’s a success story (Bins on Boats) in its own right, whether seals keep getting entangled or not because, I think, we’ve basically doubled the amount of rubbish coming back to port.”
At their crux, the bins are wheely bins with a specially designed lid that is locked down and has a rubbered punch through section, enabling fishers easy access and secure waste disposal.
Whether on commercial fishing vessels or heading out with the kids, remember to take all your fishing equipment and rubbish home with you, including netting, fishing line and bait bags.