Fishing for Energy marks 10 years of recycling derelict fishing gear

Fishing For Energy, a partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, and Covanta and Schnitzer Steel Industries, celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year. 

Fishing for Energy collects derelict fishing gear that otherwise would have become marine debris, and then recycles that gear and converts it into energy. So far, more than 4 million pounds of derelict gear have been kept out of the ocean. 

“In the 10 years since the Fishing for Energy partnership was launched, participating ports have played a key role in promoting this free program to fishermen and local communities,” NFWF CEO and Executive Director Jeff Trandahl said in a release. “Together, we have created a solution that benefits wildlife, people, and local economies, and we look forward to continuing our efforts in the future.”

The program works directly with 55 U.S. fishing communities in 12 states, and has installed collection bins at strategic ports that offer a no-cost solution to recycle derelict gear. According to Fishing for Energy, since installing a bin in Wellfleet, Masssachusetts, the program has collected more than 540,000 pounds of derelict gear. A bin in Newport, Oregon, has collected roughly 411,000 pounds as well. 

“We are pleased to be part of this public-private partnership that works with fishing communities across the nation to properly dispose of fishing gear so it doesn’t become marine debris,” Nancy Wallace, director for the NOAA Marine Debris Program, said in a release.

In addition to offering no-cost options for the discarding of gear, the program also has grant funding that goes to innovations in gear that will prevent the loss of nets and other gear that contributes to “ghost gear.”

Ghost gear has long been an issue that many organizations have been fighting against. The Ghost Gear initiative, one of the more well-known organizations, has been working to reduce the amount of derelict fishing gear lost at sea. The FAO recently released guidelines on “ghost fishing,” which occurs when lost gear continues to catch and kill marine species. 

In total, Fishing for Energy has given out over USD 3.7 million (EUR 3.28 million) in grants to over 40 projects in 19 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. 

Through the partnership, and the efforts of fishermen, Fishing for Energy has managed to keep thousands of metric tons of fishing gear out of the water, and created plenty of energy on the upside. 

“Fishermen and local community groups are essential to our success,” Kenneth Armellino, Covanta’s director of environmental science and community affairs, said. “With their active participation, we are able to recycle valuable metals and recover renewable energy from the remaining material at Covanta Energy-from-Waste facilities. Over the past 10 years, we have been able to generate enough electricity from derelict gear and marine debris to power over 44,000 homes for one year.”


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