Marine conservation charity Sea Trust Wales, together with Macduff Shellfish and the BioComposites Centre, a specialist research centre at Bangor University, are seeking to find a sustainable alternative to woven, plastic bait bags that are used by shellfish fishermen and in seafood processing factories.
If successful, it may have broader applications across aquaculture, agriculture and food production.
The three-month project is backed by The UK Seafood Innovation Fund, a £10 million programme supporting new ideas to deliver cutting-edge technology and innovation to the UK’s fishing, aquaculture and seafood industries.
The bait bags, commonly used in the whelk fishing sector, are not easily recyclable, often ending up in landfill or can sometimes fly away overboard when used at sea, impacting on marine and coastal wildlife. They are also not easy to clean for re-use.
This initial feasibility study will examine how the bags are currently used by fishermen, explore how they could be cleaned and, through a circular economy, the material reprocessed into a polymer bag which is more robust and readily recyclable. The team’s hope is that in future the partnership could develop a robust, commercially viable, biodegradable bioplastic bag, that would have wider applications too across aquaculture, agriculture and in food processing.
Claire Pescod, Head of Sustainability & Science, at Macduff Shellfish – the largest shellfish supplier in Europe – said: “Sustainability is at the core of the Macduff Shellfish business. We are committed to investing in scientific research to inform and improve fisheries management as well as a wide range of sustainability initiatives like this bait bag project.
“We’ve worked hard on reducing, reusing, and recycling materials within our supply chain but bait bags was one area that needs more work to find a commercially viable and cost effective alternative.
"We are pleased to be working in partnership with Sea Trust and the BioComposites Centre with input from whelk fishermen and hope that collectively we can make real in-roads.”