World Animal Protection crown the winner of their Sea Change Champion Award

Welsh fisherman wins award for work done to tackle ghost fishing gear

Nigel Sanders is paving the way for sustainable fishing. As a full-time inshore fisherman working from Swansea in South Wales, UK, day-to-day he can be found on a 10-metre catamaran with his two crew, Gareth Evans and Andrew McGuirk. 

What sets him apart from other fishermen in the area, and why World Animal Protection have crowned him Sea Change Champion, is his inexhaustible appetite for environmentally-responsible fishing practices. Not only has he worked with local scientists to help them learn more about their fisheries and develop new approaches to sustainability, he is also concerned about ghost fishing gear and the impact it can have on the marine environment. 

Along with the local fisherman’s association (South and West Wales Fishing Communities) and lobster expert Dr Emma Wootton, Nigel has secured funding to trial escape gaps and biodegradable closures. The aim is to find a low cost, environmentally-friendly method that will reduce the risk of pots continuing to catch animals should they be lost. 

World Animal Protection’s Alyx Elliott said: 

Projects like the one that Nigel has been involved in are incredibly important because they lessen the impact that lost fishing gear would have if it was left to float around in the oceans, indiscriminately catching and killing all different types of marine animals. We were really impressed with the simple yet effective solutions that Nigel has been trialling, and hope that they can eventually be rolled out as standard practice across all lobster fisheries.

When asked what motivates him to carry out this work, Nigel explained:

My boat, Danny Buoy, is named in memory of my son, Daniel, and fishing is my life. I want there to be a future for fishing and I want to be part of it. I don’t want to spend years annihilating the environment and move onto something else…I want to make our fishing practices as sustainable as possible and I couldn’t do that without the support of my two crew.”

World Animal Protection launched the award as part of their Sea Change campaign, which aims to reduce and remove ghost fishing gear from the sea. Approximately 640,000 tonnes of fishing litter enters the world’s oceans every year.

Dr Andy Woolmer, a marine biologist who works with the Welsh Fishermen’s Association, nominated Nigel for the award and explained why his work is so important:

If we want to address ghost gear issues locally, we need to celebrate fishermen like Nigel and his crew for involving themselves in the development of ghost gear mitigation methods and promoting them to other fishermen.”

This is the first Sea Change Champion Award but World Animal Protection hope to make it an annual event. They will continue to celebrate individuals in the fishing industry like Nigel who are working to tackle ghost fishing gear, and assist them in promoting these projects to other fishermen. 

Project information:

  • South and West Wales Fishing Communities (SWWFC) is the fishermen’s association representing fishermen in South Wales

  • Welsh Fishermen’s Association is the national voice of Welsh fishermen

  • This project (lobster escape gaps) was funded by European Fisheries Fund and Welsh Government via the Swansea Fishermen’s Local Action Group