Every year marine species, from lobsters and fish to sea lions and birds, become trapped or entangled in lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear. This "derelict gear" (fishing line, nets, and pots) continues to capture fish and wildlife while at sea, even if no fishermen retrieves the catch. Lost gear can also accumulate over time, creating islands of metal and rope. Storms move these masses across the ocean floor, scouring fragile habitats like coral reefs and sea grass beds. Floating masses foul both vessels and active fishing gear, adversely impacting maritime industries.
The Fishing for Energy partnership works to address this problem in two ways: by providing commercial fishermen with no-cost opportunities to dispose of derelict and retired fishing gear, and by offering grant support for direct removal and assessment efforts. By assisting in prevention and removal of derelict fishing gear, Fishing for Energy restores the quality of marine and coastal habitats and supports the communities and industries that rely on these resources.
Funding priorities for this program include:
- Disposal opportunities: provide collection bins at strategic ports for commercial fishermen to unload gear;
- Regulation: collaborate with state managers to address legal impediments of derelict fishing gear removal;
- Technological Innovation: identify, test, and deploy innovations to address accidental introduction of derelict fishing gear into the marine environment and innovations to reduce the effectiveness of gear once lost; and,
- Outreach and Education: educate the public about the impacts of derelict fishing gear and Fishing for Energy initiatives to make measurable change.
Through March 2016, the Fishing for Energy partnership has provided removal services at 48 ports in 10 states, collecting over 3 million pounds of fishing gear. Gear collected at the ports is first sorted at Schnitzer Steel Industries for metals recycling, and the remaining non-recyclable material is converted into energy at Covanta Energy locations. Through the Fishing for Energy grants fund, close to $1.65 million has been awarded with about $964,000 matched from grantees for 27 projects.
This program has been featured at local, regional, and international events including the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference, the New Bedford Working Waterfront Festival and SWANA Regional Conferences. Fishing for Energy is a partnership between NFWF and NOAA's Marine Debris Program, Covanta Energy Corporation and Schnitzer Steel Industries.