Ms Ní Riada, who sits on the EU Fisheries Committee, made the call after a major report revealed that the volume of plastic in the ocean was set to treble within a decade.
“This is an extremely worrying report, especially coming just weeks after a study by NUI Galway revealed that up to 73% of deep water fish in the northwest Atlantic had ingested plastic,” she said.
“Governments across Europe can no longer afford to ignore this issue. We need to develop a multi industry-wide, and indeed an EU-wide strategy for clearing our oceans and stopping the constant flow of rubbish, particularly plastic, into them.
“As this report shows, if we don’t tackle this now we are condemning the next generation to attempt to deal with one that will be exponentially worse.
“That’s before we even get into the issue of what effects fish ingesting plastic will have on stock levels and indeed the food chain. There is so much we don’t know about the damage we may be doing to our planet and ourselves; indeed the only thing we do know is that if we do not act now it will only get worse and worse.
“I recently raised this issue with EU Marine Commissioner Karmenu Vella and stressed the need for an EU wide approach to tackling the problem. Neither fish nor plastic pollution recognise international borders, this should be a concern for all of us.
“Incentives that already exist for vessels to gather plastics while at sea should also be expanded. Under the operational program of the EMFF the incentive for fishermen to gather plastic exists but it is too little and BIM need to be far more proactive in expanding and promoting the schemes.
“They also need to ensure that any payment goes directly to the fishermen themselves. Fishermen can, and indeed are playing a key role in helping us keep our oceans healthy.”