Circular Ocean - Inspiring Communities to realise the hidden economic opportunities of discarded fishing nets and ropes in the Northern Periphery & Arctic region  Challenges

Environmental Impact

An issue that is particularly pertinent to the NPA region is the relentless increase of marine litter
and in particular discarded fishing nets.

The total economic damage of marine plastic waste is estimated at almost €12 billion per year including environmental, commercial and clean-up costs.
Up to 12.7 million tons of marine plastic waste enters the oceans each year due to poor waste management practices.
Experts believe that entanglement by fishing-related gear is the number 1 threat to seabirds, turtles and marine mammals.
Over 33,000 nets are estimated to be lost in selected European fisheries annually due to bad weather conditions, gear conflict and ocean currents.
By 2050, there will be more plastic
than fish
in the world's oceans.
Long term effects on marine life include impacts on marine ecosystems that ultimately leads to loss of biodiversity.
Plastic material absorbs persistent organic pollutant from its ambient environment, which if ingested by marine organisms, may enter the food web.
Approximately 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear is lost globally each year.


● J.R. Jambeck et al.,'Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean', Science, 2015

● UNEP, 'Valuing Plastics: The Business Case for Measuring, Managing and Disclosing Plastic Use in the Consumer Goods Industry', 2014

● J. Brown, Macfadyen, G et al.'Ghost fishing by lost fishing gear. Final report to DG, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs of the European Commission, Fish/2004/20." Institute for European Environmental Policy/Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management Ltd Join report 2005

● C. Wilcox et al.,'Using expert elicitation to estimate the impacts of plastic pollution on marine wildlife', Marine Policy, 2016

● World Economic Forum (2009), Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey & Company, The New Plastics Economy - Rethinking the future of Plastics

● Macfadyen, G.Huntington, T., & Cappell, R. (2009). "Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear". UNEO Regional Seas Reports & Studies, No 185; FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper, No 523. Rome: UNEP/FAO

Regional Challenges

The countries of the Northern Periphery and Arctic region share the
following common challenges:


The remoteness of the NPA region can restrict access to markets, enterprise opportunities, and potential collaborators and more peripheral areas suffer from out-migration, brain drain and ageing populations.


High transport costs and the inability to reach critical mass leads to a challenging business environment.


As a result of climate change, there is now greater accessibility to the Northern Sea Route, resulting in increased sea traffic and greater amounts of marine litter.


The average population density of habitable regions of the NPA region is very low compared to the European Union average.


Coastal regions across the NPA area are renowned for their outstanding natural beauty. Increasing levels of marine litter impinge on the ability of the NPA region to retain its appeal to tourists and residents.


Remote regions of the NPA area face important decisions on how they deal with materials which may not have been produced or used locally, but have been discarded onto their shores and seas.

Our Approach

Results from Circular Ocean’s research will be used to inform scientists, politicians, entrepreneurs and local communities on how to develop sustainable solutions to the problem of derelict fishing gear. Circular Ocean will develop the following resources for key stakeholders also:

  • A Marine Litter Environment Impact and Lifecycle Handbook
  • Reports on the environmental impact of discarded fishing nets
  • Research feasibility and cost/benefit analysis of fishnet collection for export and recycling
  • A guide to supportive policy and regional frameworks regarding innovation
  • Policy and institutional barrier reports