Fishing boats in Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Fishing for Energy Reaches 4.5 Million Pound Milestone in Marine Debris Collection

Innovative marine conservation partnership celebrated in Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Fishing boats in Wellfleet, Massachusetts | Credit: Mike Cicale

Wellfleet, MA (December 8, 2020) — Since its inception in 2008, the “Fishing For Energy” program, a conservation partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, Covanta and Schnitzer Steel Industries, has collected and recycled or converted to energy more than 4.5 million pounds of derelict fishing gear, the program partners announced today. 

The town of Wellfleet, Mass. has participated in the program for several years, working to keep the ocean clean and helping to protect marine life. Since installing a collection bin over five years ago, more than 670,000 pounds of obsolete fishing gear has been collected and processed as a result of Wellfleet’s participation. 

“Derelict nets, pots and other fishing gear often continue to capture fish and marine wildlife after they are lost, damaging critical populations and valuable natural resources,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The Town of Wellfleet provides a wonderful example of the success we can achieve by collecting and recycling or converting to energy derelict fishing gear. Working with communities like Wellfleet, this public-private partnership has come together to institute innovative and effective solutions to this so-called ‘ghost fishing’ problem.”

“The Fishing for Energy program is a great way for the hardworking people in Wellfleet’s fishing industry to recycle their gear at no cost and keep our waters clean,” said Mike Cicale, Transfer Station Foreman at the Wellfleet Department of Public Works. “We are very happy to have had such success and to be able to continue the program.” 

Over the past decade plus, the Fishing for Energy program has worked directly with fishing communities to offer no-cost solutions to recycle and recover energy from derelict and retired gear. Through the installation of collection bins at strategic ports, local communities have been able to responsibly dispose of fishing traps, lines and nets that are no longer in use, thus preventing them from entering U.S. waterways and coastlines. 

“This achievement demonstrates the positive impact that can result from multi-sector collaboration to provide solutions that benefit local communities and protect our shared environment and the blue economy,” said Nancy Wallace, Director of the NOAA Marine Debris Program. “We are pleased to celebrate this milestone with the Fishing for Energy program and continue to support these efforts to prevent fishing gear from becoming marine debris.” 

Fishing for Energy collection bins can be found on both the East and West coasts. The program’s success would not be possible without support from local community partners who increase awareness about the program through word-of-mouth, on-site signage, outreach through fishing cooperatives or marine supply stores, and digitally through newsletters, newspapers and social media. The partnership has directly engaged more than 1,000 fishermen in recycling and converting unwanted gear into energy.  

“Wellfleet’s commitment to the Fishing for Energy program stands as a shining example to the type of success we can achieve by working together to preserve our waterways,” said Kenneth Armellino, Covanta’s director of environmental science and community affairs. “It is because of this fishing community’s dedication to the program that we are able to celebrate another milestone in protecting the marine environment. Covanta is proud to support this important initiative and we look forward to its continued success.”

“Wellfleet has been involved in the program for several years and provides an example of a true partnership making a difference in our waterways,” said Colin Kelly, Schnitzer’s Director of Public Affairs. “We are very proud of the work that has been accomplished and looking forward to continued success.”

In 2020, the Fishing for Energy program modified its implementation model to allow ports to develop recycling partners of their own, or to use existing partners within the Fishing for Energy recycling and energy conversion efforts. This new model allows new ports to enter the program, but it also allows long-standing locations, such as Wellfleet, to continue their commitment to removing harmful debris from the ocean. 

To learn more about this and other efforts under the Fishing for Energy program, please visit our website

A short news video is available at this link to learn more about the Fishing for Energy partnership.  

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 5,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $6.1 billion. Learn more at

About Covanta
Covanta is a world leader in providing sustainable waste and energy solutions. Annually, Covanta’s modern Energy-from-Waste facilities safely convert approximately 21 million tons of waste from municipalities and businesses into clean, renewable electricity to power one million homes and recycle approximately 550,000 tons of metal. Through a vast network of treatment and recycling facilities, Covanta also provides comprehensive industrial material management services to companies seeking solutions to some of today’s most complex environmental challenges. For more information, visit

About NOAA
NOAA is celebrating 50 years of science, service, and stewardship in fulfilling a mission to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and our other social media channels. Visit our news and features page. The NOAA Marine Debris Program, within the Office of Response & Restoration, is the federal lead on marine debris. For more information visit:

About Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc.
Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. is one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of recycled metal products in North America with operating facilities located in 23 states, Puerto Rico and Western Canada. Schnitzer has seven deep water export facilities located on both the East and West Coasts and in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. The Company's integrated operating platform also includes auto parts stores with approximately 5 million annual retail visits. The Company's steel manufacturing operations produce finished steel products, including rebar, wire rod and other specialty products. The Company began operations in 1906 in Portland, Oregon.


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