For a fisherman, the sea is the most important entity for the survival. There is no one who understands the sea better than a fisherman. Sea provides them livelihood and a purpose. But the plastic in the waters is not only making life difficult for marine animals but also disrupting lives of fishermen. So, fishermen in the Kerala state of India are taking the matters into their own hands.
5,000 fishermen of Kollam city has joined hands to remove plastic from the seas. They have been fishing for decades now. Lately, they have observed that their fishing nets are catching more plastic than fish. So, they are now on a mission to clean the waters.
With the help of government, they have set up the first-ever recycling centre in the region, to clean, sort, and process all kinds of plastic found in seas like plastic bags, bottles, straws, sandals and toys.
So far, they have collected about 65 metric tons of plastic waste. This waste does not biodegrade in the water and affect marine animals which often mistake it for food and choke on it. The water animals also get tangled up in fishing nets and die. The plastic has created a havoc in the seas. Large patches of plastic on the seabed are also blocking some species’ access to their breeding grounds.
“It is affecting our work,” says Peter Mathias, head of a regional union for fishing boat owners and operators. “So in this way, it’s our responsibility, and necessary for our survival as fishermen to keep the sea clean.”
The idea of collecting the waste from the Kerala seas had been tried before but there was no place to dispose of the garbage. So, that didn’t work out.
So, this time Mathias approached J. Mercykutty Amma, the state minister of fisheries in Kerala. She decided to build a recycling facility with the help of other five government agencies.
The facility is run by all-female crew providing employment for women in the area. For the past several months, a group of 30 women have been working full time to painstakingly wash and sort plastic that the fishermen collect.
The most damaged and eroded plastic is converted into fine confetti and sold to local construction crews and is used in making roads.
Creating a system with benefits and work opportunities can definitely help in spreading the awareness regarding sustainable practices in the world. Fishing communities have the potential to remove plastic from the sea and keep the shores clean. They are the people worst affected by plastic pollution in the ocean and knows what needs to be done.