South West Wales

Ghost fishing gear campaigner John O'Connor recognised

John O'Connor Image copyright World Animal Protection
Image caption John O'Connor is the chairman of the Welsh Federation of Sea Anglers

One man's work to minimise the devastating impact fishing litter can have on the marine environment has been recognised with a national award.

John O'Connor has campaigned to keep Pembrokeshire's coast free of lost or discarded fishing tackle which can entangle crustaceans, birds and seals as well as damage habitats.

Known as ghost gear, it can take hundreds of years to decompose.

Mr O'Connor has been named World Animal Protection's Sea Change Champion.

He has worked closely with Neptune's Army of Rubbish Cleaners (NARC), whose volunteer divers regularly clear Pembrokeshire sea beds of marine litter.

Image copyright NARC
Image caption NARC divers have found everything from rusty shopping trolleys to a kitchen sink

Mr O'Connor from Pembroke Dock has been fishing for over 50 years, and has used his experience and expertise to come up with information leaflets for local and visiting anglers.

His advice includes:

  • Fish in high water to avoid snagging lines on rocks
  • Use hooks that will straighten to minimise lost tackle
  • Use biodegradable line

He has also been involved in promoting the Pembrokeshire Marine Code App which features a code of conduct, maps and information about wildlife, and providing tackle litter bins at popular fishing locations.

"I don't like the thought of all that fishing gear being left out there, there is no need," said Mr O'Connor.

"Small modifications to the way we do things can have a large impact on our ecosystems, especially if a significant number of us buy into them."

He said he was "gobsmacked" to receive the award, adding "there is always something we can do to help the environment".

Image caption A NARC diver removing some snagged fishing line

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