Environmental Protection

Fishing for Energy Reels in Gear at Everglades City

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently partnered with Fishing for Energy to remove derelict stone crab traps from the marine environment near Everglades City, Fla., making it the second location in Florida to join the unique partnership. The collected gear was brought to the Lee County Solid Waste Resource Recovery Facility, operated by Covanta Energy, to be recycled and converted into renewable energy. The Fishing for Energy program absorbed the disposal costs, leaving more funds available from the State budget to spend on direct derelict fishing gear removal efforts.

Fishing for Energy is a partnership between Covanta Energy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, and Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. It was established to reduce the financial burden imposed on commercial fishermen when disposing of old, derelict (gear that is lost in the marine environment), or unusable fishing gear and thereby reduce the amount of gear that may inadvertently end up in U.S. coastal waters. Since launching in 2008, the partnership has reeled in approximately 1.2 million pounds of old fishing gear, a portion of which has been retrieved directly from the ocean by fishermen.

The State of Florida has an active derelict fishing gear removal program that allows fishermen and volunteers to go out and collect derelict and abandoned traps during designated periods. The Fishing for Energy program assists in disposal, thus expanding the recovery efforts at sea.  "We are really happy to be working with the Fishing for Energy partnership and community volunteers in this debris recovery and collection program. We hope to continue to use this program to expand our efforts to collect even more derelict fishing gear to protect the marine ecosystems of Southeast Florida" said Tom Matthews, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Derelict fishing gear that may inadvertently be lost can threaten marine life in a number of ways; by damaging ecosystems as nets and heavy equipment settle upon the ocean floor or through 'ghost fishing,' wherein a net continues to catch fish after it is lost. Gear can also impact navigational safety, interfere with active fishing equipment and damage boat propellers and have economic repercussions on fishing and shipping enterprises and coastal communities. Placing a bin at a commercial fishing operation makes it even easier to unload the derelict traps collected at sea.

"This public-private partnership benefits both local fishing communities and state removal efforts while protecting the resources vital to the local economy. The collected material will be processed into renewable energy rather than sending it to a landfill, further protecting Florida's natural resources," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.  "The Fishing for Energy program in Everglade City complements a long-standing commitment by the Foundation to restore and protect Florida's marine, coastal and in-land resources."

Fishing for Energy thrives due to extensive cooperation between government, private, public, and local organizations. The diversity and unparalleled expertise of the partners results in a unique, community-focused program that addresses a marine environmental issue, reduces costs for small commercial fishing businesses, and recycles metal and recovers energy from the remaining material.

In 2010, Fishing for Energy was awarded the prestigious Coastal America Partnership Award, which is presented to groups that restore and protect coastal ecosystems through collaborative action and partnership. The partnership also includes a grant program that directly supports efforts to remove derelict fishing gear from U.S. coastal waters and continues to expand and partner with new ports to promote retired or derelict fishing gear collection through community education and outreach. For more information on the partnership visit: www.nfwf.org/fishingforenergy.

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