Free fishing gear disposal program will soon reach the Vineyard

Fishing for Energy is designed to help fishermen discard of old and unwanted gear. — Photo by Susan Safford

Martha’s Vineyard fishermen will have an opportunity to dispose of worn-out and discarded fishing gear as part of the Fishing for Energy program, funded through a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and private businesses.

The program will provide drop off bins at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Refuse District for one month, from February 27 until March 27. Fishermen will be asked to leave gear to be disposed outside the bins so that it can be properly sorted by refuse district employees.

Lynn Fraker of Vineyard Haven, a member of the Martha’s Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen’s Association, sought the grant to make the project possible.

Ms. Fraker is working with Fishing for Energy program officials, Bruno’s Waste Management and Don Hatch, district manager of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Refuse District to set up a drop-off spot for the old equipment.

Ms. Fraker said that too much of the old gear ends up either being dumped off of boats or lost at sea when the gear fails, adding to the pollution of our waters.

She added that disposal rates often cause fisherman to let the old gear pile up in back yards if they haven’t found other ways to get ride of it.

Mr. Hatch told the Times that the Refuse District is ready to go. He said that the District will monitor the project to keep the gear separated from other trash but that it should not significantly change his work load.

The free program will collect fishing gear, primarily line, nets, and old pots. Buoys and fiberglass will not be accepted at this time. The program is designed to encourage fishermen to pick up old gear they run across at sea and bring it ashore for disposal, according to Ms. Hofmann.

Acceptable gear includes, nets (nylon, polypropylene, monofilament), as dry as possible with organic debris removed, fishing gear rigging (trawl dragger cookies, cans, rollers, chain), traps/pots (wood, vinyl-coated wire) crushed with bricks removed, line (nylon, polypropylene) as tightly coiled as possible.

Derelict fishing gear is one of the major types of debris that impacts the marine environment today, according the Fishing for Energy website. Abandoned nets and other types of gear can continue to fish indefinitely, known as “ghostfishing,” entangling and potentially killing marine life, smothering habitat, and endangering navigation.

Fishing for Energy is a partnership between the NOAA Marine Debris Program, NFWF, Covanta – SEMASS (the municipal waste combustor facility in Rochester where solid waste from the Island is processed), and Schnitzer Steel. Partnerships are formed with ports, cities, marinas, and fishermen’s cooperatives, as appropriate, to reach out to fishermen, provide disposal facilities, and advertise the project.

There are similar projects in other parts of the country, NFWF manager of marine conservation Erin Hofmann said in a telephone conversation from her office in Washington, D.C. The program placed the first bins in 2008 and since then has expanded to 39 ports across the country. To date, close to two million pounds of gear have been collected, including lobster and crab pots, nets, dredges, and buoys, according to a press release.

The Fishing for Energy program is modeled on a successful multi-partner project in Hawaii. It provides the fishing community a way to become more actively involved in addressing existing derelict fishing gear by giving them a place to dispose of derelict gear they come across while on the water.

Once removed from the environment, the gear will be transported to the nearest Covanta Energy-from-Waste facility and recycled or burned and converted to energy. Approximately one ton of derelict nets can equal enough electricity to power one home for 25 days.