UNDER a trial scheme launched in France last month, fishermen are now being paid to trawl for the so-called ‘plastic poison’ that threatens sea life.

The move is part of a groundbreaking EU initiative to tackle plastic pollution, as well as give fishermen an alternative source of income.

It comes as a sweetener after fishing unions voiced their opposition to the EU’s intention of imposing a ban on ‘bycatch’, or throwing fish back into the sea.

The fleets are concerned they will lose money if they are unable to get rid of lower-value catches.

But Maria Damanaki, the commissioner for fisheries said: “Ending this practice of throwing away edible fish is in the interest of fishermen, and consumers.

“It has to happen – we cannot have consumers boycotting fish because they hate this problem of discards.”

Consumers, in particular in the UK, were furious, after TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall stirred up public opinion with his Fish Fight campaign calling for the ban.

This latest scheme will also serve to clean up our seas which are currently awash with plastic bottles, bags, nappies, discarded fishing nets and ropes.

Some 300,000 kilos of plastic are put into the sea each year, causing the death of up to 100,000 sea mammals.

The scheme is expected to be extended to Spain and Greece this summer, gaining strong support from Spanish fishermen.

Jesus Caparros, who represents fishermen in Motril, said: “I think it is a good idea to incentivise us to sweep up the seas.”

The new campaign will improve the prospects for fish, seabirds and other marine species, which frequently choke or suffer internal damage from ingesting small pieces of non-biodegradable packaging.

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