Commentary: Help us shore up fishing web recycling in Cordova

Loose fishing net collected by the Copper River Watershed Project. (Oct. 3, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
Loose fishing net collected by the Copper River Watershed Project. (Oct. 3, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

For the past 11 years, the Copper River Watershed Project and its partners have coordinated recycling discarded fishing web in Cordova. In doing so, we have diverted 263,712 pounds of web from the landfill, ensuring that those nets do not enter the marine environment where they pose a risk to fish, marine mammals, and wildlife.

This is a program that has operated at no cost to fishermen because of generous support from our partner Alaska Marine Lines, assistance from the City of Cordova, and a grant from the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (used to purchase shipping containers for storing collected web). However, with prices of recyclables dropping across the nation in the wake of China’s National Sword policy, markets that used to accept nylon fishing nets for re-processing have come to a screeching halt. We’re working to continue the program by connecting with other buyers, but can only do so if we adapt to what the market demands.

CRWP has been talking with Nicole Baker from Net Your Problem about new markets for Cordova’s fishing web. To meet the standards of this new reprocessing center, we are modifying how we collect fishing web, and asking fishermen to modify how they prepare web for recycling to ensure that the new reprocessing center will accept our discarded fishing nets.

Moving forward, all of the collection containers will be staged behind the Harbormaster’s office and we will be moving away from an unsupervised drop-off system. We are asking fishermen to separate nylon fishing web — which includes gillnet and seine web — from polypropylene web, also known as “chafing gear” and used in conjunction with seine web.

Please, do not drop web outside of the container.

Change is hard, but we know you can do it! These changes will begin immediately, and they are critical to ensuring the sustainability of this important recycling program. If you have questions or concerns, please contact me at 907-424-3334.


Guidelines for net recycling

  • Cut web free of all non-nylon material.
    • Corklines, leadlines and weedlines must be removed.
    • Chafing gear will be collected in a different container.
  • Bundle web in a piece of patch web and then load into a net bag. Extra net bags will be available at the containers.
  • Call the CRWP office at 907-424-3334 to arrange a time to drop off your web.

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