Nicole Baker got a net removal program launched at Dutch; plans to expand to other AK fishing towns.     Credit: KUCB

 

This summer thousands of pounds of old fishing nets piled up at Dutch Harbor will again be freighted to recyclers in Denmark.

“Once the nets get there, they grind them up and melt them down and turn them into plastic pellets that they then resell to anyone interested in buying recycled plastics to turn into water bottles or phone cases or whatever you might choose to make out of plastic.”

Nicole Baker is founder of www.netyourproblem.com .  She spearheaded a net removal project in Dutch last summer.  

As a former longtime fisheries observer, she was bothered by the massive net piles she saw at many far flung ports. The nets can weigh from 5,000 to 20,000 pounds each.

Baker connected with the company Plastix in Denmark with help from the Global Ghost Gear Initiative. From there, she charted a course.

I went to different boats and knocked on the door and said hey, we’re doing net recycling, do you have any nets to get rid off – if you do, would you go with me to the net yard and show me which ones they are.”

 Nearly 240,000 pounds, or about 40 nets, were rounded up.

“They did not even require sorting. We basically bundled up the nets and put them in shipping containers and off they went.  Whatever types of plastics were in there, that’s what they received.”   

From there, Baker said others in the fishing industry kicked in.

“Swan Nets bundled them and delivered them to OSI where they were stored. They were loaded into containers that Trident helped arrange before they were shipped to Denmark.”

Besides Dutch, Baker also plans to get a net removal project going at St. Paul Island, and hopefully soon at Kodiak. And she has a long term plan.

“Each fishing port will have its own special logistics plan but the general role will be the same. You need somebody  to truck the nets around, load them, ship them.”
“This is a long term vision, but I would like to do is have a program set up so when you buy a new net you know exactly what to do with the old one.”

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is now offering grants on fishing gear removal programs. Deadline to apply is April 19.

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