Fishing For Energy Project Takes Abandoned Fishing Equipment and Turns It Into Electricity

“Fishing for Energy,” an innovative partnership to recycle fishing equipment into energy, has expanded to Newport, Rhode Island. The program was launched at the Town Pier in an event today attended by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), as well as members of the commercial fishing community and other notable dignitaries.

The “Fishing for Energy” partnership is an initiative between Covanta Energy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. to help coastal communities reduce the amount of abandoned fishing gear that ends up in the nation’s oceans.

Derelict fishing equipment can threaten marine life, impair navigational safety, and have serious economic repercussions on shipping and coastal communities. Since the program was launched in February, more than 80,000 pounds of fishing nets, trawl gear, crab pots, and fishing line have been collected and converted into energy.

“This collaborative and innovative project will turn an environmental hazard and burden on local fishermen into an opportunity to decrease our reliance on foreign oil and grow our green economy,” U.S. Senator Whitehouse said.

Rhode Island is home to a large commercial fishing fleet, which landed more than 108 million pounds of fish and shellfish and lobster valued at $92 million in 2006. The city of Newport hosts one of the largest fishing fleets in the state.

“The Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen's Association (AOLA) has worked diligently to bring ‘Fishing for Energy’ to Rhode Island,” said Bonnie Spinazzola, Director of AOLA. “This program is the solution to the industry’s serious concerns about where to discard derelict gear retrieved from the ocean floor, as well as where to dispose of floating groundlines. We are thrilled to be able to help the industry and the ocean environment and are pleased that the fishing gear will be used to create energy for the general public.”

Covanta will work closely with the city of Newport and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and AOLA to coordinate the removal of abandoned gear from local coastal waters, as well as help retire equipment that is no longer fit for use within a fishery.

Paul Gilman, Chief Sustainability Officer for Covanta Energy, said he was encouraged by the response the program had received by Newport and other communities.

“We are thrilled that Newport has embraced this important program as a way to help our oceans. They are demonstrating valuable leadership as stewards of one of our most vital resources,” Gilman said. “As a company committed to improving the environment, Covanta is proud to join Newport and our program partners in turning the unwanted problem of ocean debris into clean, renewable energy.”

Once removed from the environment, the gear will be shredded at a Schnitzer facility and transported to Covanta’s Southeastern Connecticut Energy-from-Waste facility where it will be converted into electricity at no cost to the city.

“The ‘Fishing for Energy’ program is already proving to be of great value to several of New England’s busiest and most productive ports,” said Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director of National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “As we move forward, bringing the program into new ports, the addition of new partners and attention to this cooperative effort will increasingly benefit both fishermen and the marine environment. The fact that over 83,000 pounds of gear has been collected so far is a great indicator of the interest in the marine debris issue and need for this important partnership.”

“The ‘Fishing for Energy’ project is an innovative and collaborative program that addresses both used and derelict fishing gear in our waters. It is a significant step to work directly with the fishing community to dispose of marine debris in a way that benefits the community,” stated Dave Westerholm, Director of the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration. “NOAA and the Marine Debris Program are proud to be a partner in this project to reuse abandoned gear as a source of energy to power the region’s homes and businesses.”

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