Fishing nets and ropes account for 28% of all beach litter around the North East Atlantic. That means that almost one in three piece of rubbish found on northern European beaches comes from the fishing industry.
In fact, the figure is even higher in some places.
All over Europe, plastic pollution and marine litter is a challenge for coastal communities. Beaches are strewn with washed-up rubbish – which is unattractive for locals and visitors and expensive for local authorities to clean up.
The Sacabout’s story
Maëlisse Audugé grew up in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia. She spent time on sailing boats and saw first-hand the impact of environmental threats like climate change.
Upon returning to France in 2014, Audugé studied at a maritime school and graduate as a captain. Then she set about learning more about the fishing industry and fishing communities. She enrolled on a university course to studying fishing and environmental management at Le Guilvinec Maritime College in Brittany.
Finally, Audugé became a fisher herself, working on a trawler in the Mediterranean and later, off the coast of Brittany. Like other fishers, she cares deeply about protecting the marine environment that sustains livelihoods and communities along Europe’s coasts.
But while fishing, Audugé witnessed the growing impact of plastic pollution. Especially pollution from the fishing industry.
While taking part in a beach clean near the port of Guilvinec, in France, Audugé found 64% of all of the items found were so-called ‘net cuttings’. These are the pieces of rope and cord cut away from larger nets while they are being repaired.
Audugé understood the hard work that fishermen do, and how this material can be accidentally lost while working at sea or on shore.
But rather than feeling powerless, she decided to develop a solution:
“I saw how small piece of rope were escaping into the sea when we fixed nets. I wanted to change this and reduce pollution by offering fishermen a tool to collect pieces of nets. It is important for the next generation of fisherman to embrace new, more sustainable practices for the environment.“
Her answer is simple yet ingenious.
Audugé decided to enter a competition the Les aventuriers de la mer festival in Lorient, France. Her invention won first prize.
Le Sacabout is a pouch that fishers can wear and use to collect cuttings while they work.
The idea is to make it easier to collect rope cuttings than to let them fall on the ground – where they may be accidentally washed or blown into the sea.
“I knew from my own experience as a fisher how it is sometimes easier to let net cuttings fall on the ground and then sweep up later, rather than going to a bin with every small piece. Unfortunately, when the wind blows or the sea is rough, net cuttings escape into the environment. The Sacabout makes it easy to collect the waste while working.”
The pouch has already been tested by fishermen and has received positive reviews.
In April, the Sacabout featured in KIMO International’s best practice guide to reduce marine litter from net cuttings waste.
Audugé is still busy working on the Sacabout and, after listening to fishermen’s feedback, developing a new prototype.
She hopes that this prototype could be ready by the end of the year and that more fishermen will be able to us the Sacabout before too long.