The use of plastics in commercial and recreational fishing has slowly increased over recent decades on account of its durability, low production costs and lightweight nature. As a result the number of fishing related items removed during beach clean-ups is significant, with the majority being made of plastic.
In 2005, after the initial Cape to Cape Beach Clean Up, community members in Margaret River (WA) analysed data from the event to identify which items where coming from local sources, and what plans could be created to prevent this.
The first item the group decided to tackle was the plastic packing bands/tape that was being used in the WA rock lobster industry to secure bait boxes. This item was found regularly during monitoring clean-ups and poses an entanglement threat to wildlife such as sharks and seals.
The reduction of strapping bands as a marine debris item is an example of a Source Reduction Plan facilitated by Tangaroa Blue Foundation involving volunteer data and state government legislation. These strapping bands are hard plastic tapes used to secure boxes on-board commercial and recreational fishing vessels. They have been common items collected on the southern half of the West Australian coastline and can cause injury to marine animals and birds if entanglement occurs, as well as adding to the overall plastic load in the ocean. A targeted Source Reduction Plan was developed, and in 2011 the Western Australian Fish Resources Management Regulations (1995) updated legislation that aimed to curb the use of plastic strapping bands used to secure bait boxes on vessels operating in west coast fisheries. Since that time strapping bands are required to be removed from bait boxes prior to boxes being loaded on-board vessels.
A prohibition for bait bands in the rock lobster fishery was recently announced by the WA Minister of Fisheries in the December issue of the Rock Lobster Newsletter.
In 2005, after the first Cape to Cape Beach Clean Up, Tangaroa Blue held a volunteer workshop to look at what debris was collected and ways we might be able to reduce those items from ending up in the ocean in the first place. Bait packing tape was identified as debris which was in part coming from a local industry source and was also an item that we thought could be modified to reduce the chance of it from ending up in the ocean. After 5 years of providing data and reports from our South West Marine Debris Project, along with recommendations on banning packing tape on fishing vessels to the West Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC), the Rock Lobster Industry Advisory Council (RLIAC) and the Minister and Department of Fisheries we are very happy that we've been involved in bringing this issue a full circle, ending in a positive way of removing the threat of bait bands from the ocean environment.
The Minister has recently approved a prohibition on the use of plastic bait bands in the Fishery. The Minister's decision is in response to a condition placed on the Fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) requiring that a study be undertaken to determine the level of compliance to the "Bait Handling Code of Practice". Following advice from the WRLC, the RLIAC and the Department the Minister decided that rather than spend a considerable amount of money on a compliance study to meet the MSC condition, a prohibition on the use of plastic bait bands would be a more environmentally responsible and cost effective means of addressing the Condition.
The prohibition is due to be implemented by the start of the 2010/11 season, and will apply to all "active" rock lobster boats, but exclude dinghies and carrier boats. While the Minister acknowledges that the rock lobster fleet is the major user of bait bands in the State, he has also requested the Department advise him on the feasibility of a total industry-wide prohibition on the use of bait bands.
The Department will now approach WAFIC, seeking its views regarding a possible implementation of an industry-wide prohibition on the "at-sea" use of bait bands.