NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

Fishing for Energy: Reducing Marine Debris One Bin at a Time (Part 1)


By Anna Manyak, Northeast Regional Coordinator and Knauss Fellow, NOAA Marine Debris Program

Although consumer debris is the most commonly collected item during beach cleanups, below the water lies another form of debris that is equally prevalent and harmful: derelict fishing gear.  Defined as gear that has been lost or abandoned in the marine environment, derelict fishing gear poses a huge threat to marine organisms and the environment through impacts such as entanglements and ghost fishing.  It consists of any items used for recreational or commercial fishing activities, such as nets, pots, ropes, and fishing line.

Derelict stone crab pot in Florida

When the Marine Debris Program was established through the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act of 2006, the program was charged with the “development of effective non-regulatory measures and incentives to cooperatively reduce the volume of lost and discarded fishing gear and to aid in its recovery.”  In essence, we needed to develop a program to keep fishing gear from becoming marine debris.  Enter the Fishing for Energy program.

Fishing for Energy is a partnership between Covanta Energy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, and Schnitzer Steel, designed to provide a cost free disposal solution for derelict or otherwise unusable fishing gear to commercial fishermen across the nation.  The program gives fishermen a place to dispose of derelict gear they come across while on the water and eases the financial burden associated with the disposal of unusable fishing gear in landfills.  By placing bins at busy fishing ports, the program significantly increases the likelihood that derelict gear does not become marine debris.

Derelict fishing gear disposal in a Fishing for Energy
Photo courtesy of NFWF

How does Fishing for Energy work?  The partnership strategically places dumpsters at busy fishing ports around the country, where commercial fishermen can easily dispose of old, unusable fishing gear.  Full dumpsters of collected gear are then transported to local Schnitzer Steel facility, where metal gear is recycled and nets and pots are sheared for easier disposal.  From there, the gear is brought to the local Covanta Energy facility where gear, such as ropes and nets, are burned as a source of renewable energy to power local communities.

Today, Fishing for Energy is represented in 9 states and 31 ports across the country.  Since its establishment in 2008, about 750 tons of gear (nearly 1.5 million pounds!) have been prevented from becoming marine debris.

Interested in learning more?  Follow our Fishing for Energy blog series as we dive deeper into the issue of derelict fishing gear and the process of turning marine debris into energy.

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.

7 thoughts on “Fishing for Energy: Reducing Marine Debris One Bin at a Time (Part 1)

  1. Fishing gear; floats, broken up plastic crates, fishing line, fish hooks, bait boxes . . . these are just some of the items I find in nearly every beach trash collection I do. I live in a fishing village so it’s not surprising to find fishing gear but the amount of what I find is alarming at times. We’ve hauled in several washed up crab pots and clam bags along with hundreds of feet of rope much of which has clearly been ‘cut loose’. It’s disturbing. I don’t want to ostracize or villanize the fishing community but it can’t be ignored or minimized thinking it’s all going to get better. I try to educate where I can but it really would be best served coming from within the fishing community.

    Thanks for this post ~ it needs to be up in conversation.

  2. I like sites like this..nice pictures and places to dream of..very nice.

  3. Pingback: Fishing for Energy: Powering Local Communities (Part III) « Marine Debris Blog

  4. Fish for energy. That was great idea but It may vary if it affect the over fishing.
    Lock Installation and Service Locksmith

  5. Fishing for Energy is a good program. it both helps to conserve water and environment cleanliness

  6. Are there any recycling bins on Cape Cod, we have a lot of used rope to donate for recycling

    • Hi Ellen,

      Yes, there are several locations on Cape Cod. We encourage you to call the numbers below to check that the location is currently accepting gear and the hours of access.
      Provincetown Transfer Station – (508) 487-7076
      Wellfleet Transfer Station – (508) 349-0335
      Chatham Transfer Station – (508) 945-5156

      Off Cape:
      New Bedford – (508) 989-1195
      Scituate – (781) 545-8729

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