The challenge was designed by Nicole Baker, a former North Pacific groundfish fishery observer and researcher at the University of Washington. Baker is also the founder of www.netyourproblem.com, an entity working with fishermen and recyclers to get thousands of pounds of discarded fishing nets turned into new plastic products.
Through her website, Baker is connecting with fishermen with old nets that need recycling, recyclers looking for raw materials, net manufacturers who want to be involved in responsible disposal of their products, and others who might offer financial support for this massive recycling endeavor.
Last summer Baker’s efforts helped ship nearly 240,000 pounds of nets from Dutch Harbor to the Danish company Plastix, which refines and pelletizes plastics for reuse in many items, including water bottles.
Baker is co-hosting the challenge with the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association’s Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative, whose goal is to create new businesses in Alaska and thousands of new jobs, based on the Blue Economy. In addition to the design contest, speakers Peter Murphy, the Alaska regional coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program and Ky Holland of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization, will discuss opportunities for entrepreneurial small businesses.
Baker said she is hopeful that people will start looking at those massive piles of old fishing nets as a resource that can be recycled into useful and valuable products.
More information on BEFA’s Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative can be found online at https://www.bsfaak.org/alaska-ocean-cluster-initiative.