The Government is this morning announcing a major new push to tackle plastic waste in our oceans.

The Clean Oceans Initiative will encourage fishing trawlers to remove and reduce marine litter around the country.

The programme is Ireland’s first coordinated campaign on land and at sea to collect, reduce and reuse marine litter. 

Washed-up plastic waste and wood on a beach at the North Sea in Denmark, 09-02-2018. Image: Patrick Pleul/DPA/PA Images

It comes as research finds that plastic is the most common form of marine debris – making up nearly 80% of marine waste.

Meanwhile, almost 70% of larger sized plastic waste in the oceans is fishing related.

Fisherman Ronan Sheehy from Baltimore in County Cork said it is easy for sea workers to get involved.

"We are provided with bags; we haul up our nets; we have to sort out the fish and gut them anyway so it is simply a case of whatever rubbish comes on board we put it in the bags and when we get to shore we put it on the pier and it is looked after from there," he said. 

Launching the initiative, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed urged the entire Irish fishing fleet to get involved.

He said the growing plastic crisis is threatening “our fish stocks, the wider marine environment and the future of our fishing industry.”

“I am setting out a challenge for our fishing industry to set a world first by having all of our fishing trawlers cleaning and removing plastic from the ocean every day, as they go about their activity at sea,” he said.

“This is good for the marine environment, fish stocks and our fishing industry.

“This is a challenge which I am confident our fishing industry will rise to and succeed in setting an example for other nations.”

He said he aims have all Irish trawlers at every pier and every port in the country actively participating in the initiative by the end of the year.

The Department of Agriculture is now assembling a team of stakeholders from across the marine industry to focus on solutions for marine litter prevention and removal. 

File photo of people removing recyclable items from the waste washed along the coast of Manila in the Philippines. Image: Linus Escandor II via ZUMA Wire

Nearly 300 million metric tonnes of plastic is produced around the world annually - half of it single use - with around eight million metric tonnes ending up in our oceans every year.

According to the Plastic Oceans initiative, 500 billion plastic bags are used around the world every year – more than one million a minute.

The group said plastic bags have an average “working life” of 15 minutes.

File photo of a worker checking the mountains of plastic bottles compressed into blocks at the Panda Recycling plant in Dublin. Image: RollingNews