NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

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Net Recycling in Alaska

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By guest blogger, Fran Recht, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission

Arnold Alfred, Paul Jenson, and Clint Teeluk load collected nets into a container for shipping. Photo courtesy of Kwik’pak Fisheries LLC.

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).

Steve Hendrickson with bicycle seat made from recycled gillnet. Photo courtesy of Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.

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, franrecht@centurytel.net.

Alyssa Frothingham and Orville Huntington with new and exchanged gillnet. Photo courtesy of Tenana Chiefs Conference.

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

3 thoughts on “Net Recycling in Alaska

  1. I am curious if the recyclers accept nets that have barnacles on them? Kathy Peavey – 22 metric tons of marine debris removed from the beaches outside of Craig, Alaska… and growing!

    • [From Fran Recht and Peter Murphy] Barnacles and a lot of organic materials are not OK. Separate out those nets from those that are OK. Remember that the net needs to be leadline, weedline, and corkline free (more or less) , though hanging twine is OK.

      • Thanks. We have Curtis Ebbesmeyer on board for our Whalefest and Beachcomber fun fair slated for March 30, 31st and April 1st in Craig. Please come enjoy the fun and spread the word. The Orca Network from Washington will be here as well. Curtis will give his presentation Friday night -booths from 4-7 talk at 7 and Howard Garrett and his wife Susan Berta on Saturday. We will have whale watching on Saturday from 8-1 booths and vendors on Saturday 1-7 talk 7pm. Sunday we will be having a big beach cleanup!

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