Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, New York and the Long Island port of Northport, New York are the second recipients of a grant award from the Fishing for Energy initiative, a program which has provided commercial fishermen a cost-free way to recycle old and unusable fishing gear at 18 ports along the East Coast. The funds received will be used to locate derelict lobster gear in the waters off Western Long Island Sound. Once found, commercial lobstermen will remove the gear and put it in a Fishing for Energy bin located at the Harbor.
Fishing for Energy is a partnership between Covanta Energy (Covanta), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, and Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. It was established in 2008 to reduce the financial burden imposed on commercial fishermen when disposing of old, derelict (gear that is lost in the marine environment), or unusable fishing gear and thereby reduce the amount of gear that ends up in U.S. coastal waters. The gear from this project will be collected at the port to be stripped of metals for recycling with the help of Schnitzer Steel and processed into clean, renewable energy at the Covanta Huntington Energy-from-Waste facility in East Northport, NY. The partnership recently expanded to include a grant program that directly supports derelict fishing gear removal efforts in addition to the dumpster bin placements for retired gear.
The partnership is awarding a grant of $52,785 to the Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Suffolk County, which will help facilitate the removal of derelict fishing gear from Western Long Island Sound area waters. The port will also be the third location in New York to join the ongoing Fishing for Energy program. In New York alone, over 31 tons of commercial fishing gear has been collected and properly disposed of through the program.
Speaking on behalf of the partnership, Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation said, “Innovative partnerships like Fishing for Energy continue to find sensible solutions to marine conservation problems. This program began with great success in 2008 by providing commercial fishermen with a no-cost means to dispose of their old and derelict fishing gear. In 2010, the partnership expanded to include direct gear-removal efforts, further improving the marine environment that is so important to fishermen’s livelihoods.”
By investing in removal efforts, more lost gear can be taken out of the marine environment and put into the collection bins at the port. Abandoned or lost fishing equipment can threaten marine life in a number of ways; by damaging ecosystems as nets, pots, and heavy equipment settle upon the ocean floor or through ‘ghost fishing,’ wherein fishing gear continues to catch fish, even if abandoned or lost. Gear can also impact navigational safety, damage fishing equipment and boats that are in use, and have economic repercussions on fishing and shipping enterprises and coastal communities.
Mayor George Doll, of Northport, NY and a commercial fisherman, is very familiar with old and abandoned gear. “I’ve fished out of Northport for over 40 years and I have never, nor have any of the other fishermen, brought in old traps we’ve found and disposed of them. Old traps always stay in the water because of the amount of labor and cost required to dispose of them properly; and since we’ve switched from wood to vinyl coated wire gear, these traps last indefinitely in the sea. Because of the Fishing for Energy partnership’s grant to Cornell and the efforts of local fishermen, we now have the incentive and opportunity to bring in a lot of this lost gear. It’s a win-win situation,” stated Doll.
Fishing for Energy thrives due to extensive cooperation between government, private, public and local organizations. The diversity and unparalleled expertise of the partners results in a unique, community-focused program that addresses a marine environmental issue, reduces costs for small commercial fishing businesses and recycles metal and recovers energy from the remaining material.
Since launching in 2008, Fishing for Energy has reeled in more than 410 tons of old fishing gear, a portion of which has been retrieved directly from the ocean by fishermen. In 2010, Fishing for Energy was awarded the prestigious Coastal America Partnership Award, which is presented to groups that restore and protect coastal ecosystems through collaborative action and partnership. The partnership recently expanded to include the grant program that directly supports efforts to remove derelict fishing gear from U.S. coastal waters and will continue to partner with new ports to promote retired or derelict fishing gear collection through community education and outreach. For more information on the partnership visit: www.nfwf.org/fishingforenergy.