By guest blogger, Fran Recht, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission
The Chinook salmon is Alaska’s state fish and the largest of the Pacific salmon. In fact, the largest Chinook salmon documented weighed a whopping 126 lbs! These salmon range from the Ventura River in southern California north to Point Hope, Alaska. The Yukon River in Alaska has one of the largest runs of Chinook salmon in the world (USFWS, 2009).
In 2011, regulation changes reduced the size of the mesh allowed in the nylon gillnets used to fish for Yukon River Chinook salmon. Nets can now only have openings of up to 7 ½ inches. This smaller mesh will let the largest of the fish avoid capture and travel the 2,000+ miles from the Bering Sea to their headwater spawning grounds in Canada. This project will allow fishermen to receive a new regulation gillnet in exchange for their old. About 2,000 gillnets will be exchanged.
The nets will be collected from remote villages by boat, four-wheeler, or air and shipped to the Seattle, WA area for recycling. Kwik’pak Fisheries, LLC is coordinating the logistics in the lower Yukon River; Tenana Chiefs Conference in the upper Yukon River.
So, what happens to the used webbing? Nets from this program are consolidated with nets received from recycling efforts in Cordova, Dillingham, Naknek, Kenai, and Juneau in Alaska, Seattle and Bellingham in Washington, and Astoria, Oregon. The recycler, Skagit River Steel and Recycling, bales the collected nets and markets this nylon scrap in 20 ton loads. Recent markets have been in Vietnam, Korea, and China. Domestic markets are still not competitively available.
Recycled fishing net is made into molded products. The nets are washed, chopped up, and made into pellets that can be fed into molding machines. Some of the items that can be made are bicycle seats, castors for chairs (wheels), tool handles, auto parts, electronic parts, and chair bases. New technology allows the nets to also be used in such things as upholstery and carpets.
This project was funded by NOAA’s Operations and Management Division, Alaska Region, National Marine Fisheries Service and managed by Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
For more information, please contact Fran Recht, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, firstname.lastname@example.org.