The Connecticut port of Stonington marks a significant move toward keeping its waterways clean by participating in the Fishing for Energy partnership, a program that provides commercial fishermen a cost-free way to recycle old and unusable fishing gear. Stonington is the first port in the state to cooperate in the program. All gear collected at the port will be stripped of metals for recycling with the help of Schnitzer Steel and processed into clean energy at the Covanta SECONN Energy-from-Waste Facility located in Preston.
Fishing for Energy is a national partnership between Covanta, a world leader in sustainable waste and energy solutions, 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 in 2008 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 in U.S. coastal waters. Since its launch, Fishing for Energy has hauled in more than 3 million pounds of old fishing gear, a portion of which has been retrieved directly from the ocean by fishermen.
“I’m pleased to welcome the Fishing for Energy program to the State of Connecticut,” said State Senator Heather Somers (R-Groton) in a statement. “This collaborative and innovative program helps turn a potential environmental hazard and burden on local fishermen into an opportunity to recycle and generate clean energy for our communities. I will continue to not only help to keep our ocean clean but also fight to ensure that our last commercial fishing fleet in Connecticut continues.”
By placing the collection bin at the port, it makes it easy for fishermen to participate. Abandoned or lost fishing equipment can threaten marine life in a number of ways, such as damaging ecosystems as nets and heavy equipment settle upon the ocean floor or through ‘ghost fishing,’ wherein a net continues to catch fish, even if lost. Gear can also impact navigational safety, damage fishing equipment and boats that are in use and have economic repercussions on fishing and shipping enterprises and coastal communities.
“After many years of success at ports in New England and up and down northeast, we are delighted to be adding our first port in Connecticut,” said Paul Gilman, chief sustainability officer of Covanta, in a statement. “The collection bin will provide a convenient way to discard old gear and marine debris, helping to reduce costs for fishermen and protect the environment that is so important to their livelihoods. As an important added benefit, the collected material will also be recycled and processed into clean, renewable energy instead of sending it to a landfill."
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.
The partnership has also 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.