Fishing for Energy, a public private initiative to remove waste fishing gear form marine environments, will collect and estimated additional 26,000 pounds (11,800kg) of derelict crab pots and other marine debris over the next two years with the addition of two new ports New Jersey to its collection program.
The Fishing for Energy partnership provides commercial fishermen a no-cost solution to recycle old and unusable fishing gear. It’s latest initiative sees it partnering with Conserve Wildlife Foundation (CWF) of New Jersey.
Under the partnership Fishing for Energy will provide two new collection bins at the ports in Waretown and Mantoloking, which were identified as strategic locations for marine debris collection.
Fishing for Energy is a nationwide partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF); the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program; New Jersey based waste to energy firm Covanta and Schnitzer Steel Industries, one of the largest metal recycling companies in the US.
The partnership explained that it offers conveniently located collection bins for disposal of old fishing gear, making it easy for fishing communities, even small coastal communities like Waretown and Mantoloking, to deal with the issue of derelict fishing gear.
As a result, the partnership said that it reduces the amount of gear that ends up in US coastal waters and recycles and converts the remaining gear and debris into energy at Covanta’s waste to energy plants facilities.
This two year marine debris removal project, led by CWF and supported by a $109,619 NOAA Marine Debris Program Community based Marine Debris Removal grant, is working with local crabbers to locate and remove more than 1000 derelict crab pots from Barnegat Bay, New Jersey.
As part of this project, CWF is partnering with the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, Monmouth University, Stockton University, ReClam the Bay, New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, and the recreational and commercial fishing community to identify, retrieve, and inventory derelict crab pots.
The project is also conducting education and outreach activities on the impacts of derelict crab pots including the development of a lesson plan for schools, presentations for the community, developing informational print materials, and collaborating with the WeCrab education and outreach project led by the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve/Rutgers University and Stockton University.
"Derelict crab traps can create navigational hazards, damage habitats, and capture various marine species, including harvestable crabs, resulting in lost catch opportunities and financial losses for fishermen,” explained Nancy Wallace, director of the NOAA Marine Debris Program.
Stephanie Egger, CWF wildlife biologist and principal investigator added: “By recycling thousands of dangerous abandoned crab pots, our team is protecting vulnerable wildlife such as the diamondback terrapin, which inhabit the same shallow coastal waters in Barnegat Bay where pots are often lost or abandoned.”
“Terrapin population declines, reduced growth, and changes in sex ratios have been directly attributed to by-catch mortality in crab pots,” she continued.
The Fishing for Energy partnership provided a partial match to this project to fund the transportation and disposal of the gear to Covanta’s waste to energy facility in Union County, New Jersey.
The partnership added that any metal found in the debris at Covanta’s site will be recycled and the remainder of the traps converted into energy.
“Derelict fishing gear and marine debris place the world’s waterways and oceans in danger,” commentred Margretta Morris, Covanta vice president of materials management and community affairs.
“Since 2008, Covanta and our partners have worked with grantees and ports across the country to manage the accumulation of derelict fishing gear in the marine and coastal environment. We look forward to helping the beautiful New Jersey shores remain healthy and clean,” she added.
Fishing for Energy explained that abandoned or lost fishing equipment can threaten marine life in a number of ways, including by damaging ecosystems as nets and heavy equipment settle upon the ocean floor and through ‘ghost fishing’, where fishing gear continues to catch fish even if abandoned or lost.
Gear also can impact navigational safety, damage fishing equipment and boats that are in use, and have economic repercussions on fishing and shipping enterprises and coastal communities.
“Derelict fishing gear and other marine debris can negatively affect fishing communities and the natural resources they depend on,” said Courtney McGeachy, coordinator for NFWF’s Marine and Coastal Conservation Programs.
Since launching in 2008, Fishing for Energy said that it has processed more than three million pounds (136,000 metric tonnes) of old fishing gear, a portion of which has been retrieved directly from the ocean by fishermen.
Fishing for Energy noted that it is also a recipient of the prestigious Coastal America Partnership Award, which is presented to groups that restore and protect coastal ecosystems through collaborative action and partnership.
The partnership has expanded to include a 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.
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