NOAA's Response and Restoration Blog

An inside look at the science of cleaning up and fixing the mess of marine pollution

Fishing for Energy: Where Old Fishing Gear Goes to Retire

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This is a post by the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Anna Manyak.

Although consumer debris is the most commonly collected item during beach cleanups, below the water lies another form of debris that is equally prevalent and harmful: derelict fishing gear.  Defined as gear that has been lost or abandoned in the marine environment, derelict fishing gear poses a huge threat to marine organisms and the environment through impacts such as entanglements and ghost fishing.  It consists of any items used for recreational or commercial fishing activities, such as nets, pots, ropes, and fishing line.

Derelict stone crab pot in Florida

A derelict stone crab pot rests on the bottom of the ocean in waters off the Florida coast. (NOAA)

When the Marine Debris Program was established through the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act of 2006, the program was charged with the “development of effective non-regulatory measures and incentives to cooperatively reduce the volume of lost and discarded fishing gear and to aid in its recovery.”  In essence, we needed to develop a program to keep fishing gear from becoming marine debris.  Enter the Fishing for Energy program.

Fishing for Energy is a partnership between Covanta Energy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, and Schnitzer Steel, designed to provide a cost free disposal solution for derelict or otherwise unusable fishing gear to commercial fishermen across the nation.  The program gives fishermen a place to dispose of derelict gear they come across while on the water and eases the financial burden associated with the disposal of unusable fishing gear in landfills.  By placing bins at busy fishing ports, the program significantly increases the likelihood that derelict gear does not become marine debris.

Disposing of derelict fishing gear in a Fishing for Energy bin.

Disposing of derelict fishing gear in a Fishing for Energy bin. Photo courtesy of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

How does Fishing for Energy work?  The partnership strategically places dumpsters at busy fishing ports around the country, where commercial fishermen can easily dispose of old, unusable fishing gear.

Full dumpsters of collected gear are then transported to local Schnitzer Steel facility, where metal gear is recycled and nets and pots are sheared for easier disposal.  From there, the gear is brought to the local Covanta Energy facility where gear, such as ropes and nets, are burned as a source of renewable energy to power local communities.

Today, Fishing for Energy is represented in 9 states and 31 ports across the country.  Since its establishment in 2008, about 750 tons of gear (nearly 1.5 million pounds!) have been prevented from becoming marine debris.

Interested in learning more?  Follow our Fishing for Energy blog series as we dive deeper into the issue of derelict fishing gear and the process of turning marine debris into energy.

Originally posted on the Marine Debris Blog.

Anna Manyak is Northeast Regional Coordinator and Knauss Fellow with the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

Author: Office of Response and Restoration

The National Ocean Service's Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) provides scientific solutions for marine pollution. A part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), OR&R is a center of expertise in preparing for, evaluating, and responding to threats to coastal environments. These threats could be oil and chemical spills, releases from hazardous waste sites, or marine debris.

One thought on “Fishing for Energy: Where Old Fishing Gear Goes to Retire

  1. I absolutely love this idea. The other day I found a seagull with fishing hooks down his throat and the line wrapped around his body. I actually wrote a blog about it. I wish that all the states had this. It would be incredibly beneficial to the organisms and even ourselves.

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