I love meeting people along the way when travelling. It’s one of the things that makes surf travel so special. We get to go to places that few other humans actually go to, and meet folk that live in the wildest parts of the planet. In a freezing car park in Lofoten I met Jonas, an ex fisherman, now garage owner, probably the last person you’d expect to be an environmentalist. It was one of those awkward chats as a photographer, you never know quite how local guys will react to a camera, even somewhere as well known as this. But as soon as I mentioned marine litter, it was like being welcomed into a family.
“The beaches round here, every single one of them gets covered all winter” he was visibly agitated, “We pick up every time we go surf, only to come back to find the same amount the next session, there are some places where it’s waist deep at times”. Jonas went on to tell of beaches mile up fjords which are just covered in litter, tidal currents at the end of the Gulf Stream up here pushing rubbish into hidden corners, to very slowly decay or become meals for wildlife.
“I first really became alarmed when I started surfing, I hardly went to the beach before that up here. I have to say I thought it was all fisherman’s fault as well. The boat I used to work on headed out for two weeks at a time, we had all supplies on board, lots of plastic packaging and tins, and every bit, every single bit of rubbish went over!” “This went on for two years, then there was a change, not so much a legal one, but more we all became more aware, and we started bring it back, but I still know of a lot of boats that just throw everything in the sea, and it’s hard to monitor”
So what about ghost gear, stuff just cut adrift? ” I worked on pretty small operations, so losing a net would have been a very big deal, they are expensive you know, but it still happened. The bigger more profitable ships even more so, you’re in situations where it is impossible to do anything to but cut it free, so we did at time. Of course all the nets are made with plastics as well, so we were more than aware of the consequences”
“It’s hard for me now though, I have friends who still fish, and they don’t understand, the sea to them is this great wide ocean that they cleans everything up, they are not worried about throwing a crisp pack over the side, they don’t go to the beach to see it up here, that’s what has to change, that’s what people like you have to show the whole world”.
Jonas surfed good, I didn’t get to see him again as we were leaving as he paddled out alone and into some fun right-handers. It’s an interesting and not unfamiliar tale from a fisherman, many are very environmentally conscious, but there is still a view that the ocean provides and cleanses everything.
Just a quick chat, to illustrate an industry which is very much part of this problem, Sure it doesn’t put so much int he water as the rest of us, but it is nevertheless on the front line. Interestign to hear that there are no checks in place in Norway whereby fishing boats have to offload rubbish or potentially get fined, doubt it’s very well policed though, boats in lofted are moored in front of houses like we park cars.