CRWP marks a decade of recycling gillnet, seine web

Over 100 tons of discarded fishing web reprocessed into new products

Glenn Ujioka operating the crane for Alpine Diesel. (Photo by Shae Bowman/for The Cordova Times)

Over the past 10 years, commercial fishermen and community partners in Cordova have helped recycle more than 100 tons of discarded gillnet and seine web.

In doing so, Cordova has kept all that waste out of the landfill and prevented those nets from entangling wildlife, causing further environmental harm.

With a 2009 grant from the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, we were able to revitalize the on-again, off-again fishing web recycling program that started in the early ’90s. NOAA’s Marine Debris Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation also contributed funding.

This grant supported a part-time position at the Copper River Watershed Project to facilitate community partners in creating a sustainable recycling program.

Part of the hurdle in creating an on-going recycling program is that fishing web is heavy and very expensive to ship out of Alaska. It was simply too big a job for one organization or business to take on alone.

Bill Bell, working for Alaska Marine Lines, secures a fishing web container for pick-up. (Photo by Shae Bowman/for The Cordova Times)

With the start-up funds spent, the net recycling program continues thanks to the time and donations of our dedicated partners. Cordova’ Refuse Department and harbor staff work hard to maintain the recycling sites year-round.

When a container is full, Alaska Marine Lines and Alpine Diesel bring their skills and equipment together to pick up a full container, move it onto the AML barge, and then replace the full container with an empty one.

Once the full shipping container has been moved to the barge, AML hauls the web to Washington free of charge. Upon arriving at Skagit River Steel and Recycling, the nets are sorted and baled and then shipped overseas to be made into new items.

According to the Zender Environmental Health and Research Group, fishing web made out of nylon can be reprocessed to manufacture a wide range of new products including wheels for chairs, tool handles, auto parts, telephones, computer parts, toothbrushes, upholstery and carpeting.

Shipping container full of fishing web for recycling. (Photo by Shae Bowman/for The Cordova Times)

You just never know – the nylon nets you used to fish with could be a part of the toothbrush you brush your teeth with now!

The second key element of our successful fishing web recycling program is Cordova’s fishermen taking the time to recycle their fishing nets properly.

This means that nets are clean and stripped of any non-nylon material — including weed and lead lines — and bagged in a net bag or bundled with a piece of line and then deposited inside a net recycling shipping container.

The containers are located behind the harbormaster office and the baler.

To ensure a smooth transition for Alaska Marine Lines and Alpine Diesel, we ask that fishermen keep the area around the shipping containers clean by depositing nets completely inside the container. If help is required moving a net into a container, please contact staff at the baler or harbormaster’s office.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, CRWP would like to thank our community partners, Alaska Marine Lines, the Harbormaster’s Office, City of Cordova Refuse Department, and Alpine Diesel, for their time, skills, and equipment to make the fishing web recycling program happen, and we thank the fishermen who make the extra effort to recycle their clean web.

If you have any questions about web recycling please contact Shae Bowman at shae@copperriver.org or 907-424-3334.

Shae Bowman is the operations manager for the Copper River Watershed Project.

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