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                                                                                        Fishing gear recycling in Southeast AK     Credit: National Fisherman

A recycling road trip for old fishing gear is set for June in many Alaska fishing towns. The first stop for a Net Your Problem team is at Naknek where a June 7 meeting is set with the Bristol Bay Borough, says founder Nicole Baker.

 This is something I’ve been working on for a couple of years. And right now we are submitting a request to the Bristol Bay Borough to have a funding request discussed at their assembly meeting in June. And we have tentative agreements with the Regional Seafood Development Association, Grundens and the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation to help pay for the first year of recycling there. So if that gets approved, cross our fingers wish wish wish, then we will be able to hopefully start net recycling in 2022.   

Baker’s team will head to Cordova for a recycling push on June 8.

 “The Cordova thing is moving Full speed ahead with the Copper River watersheds project. They’re the ones collecting the nets.”

They’ll be in Homer mid-month to try and get people on board with a program there.

Then it’s off to Dutch Harbor on June 18 where her team will work with the City to sort through the nets and lines in the landfill. Getting more boats to recycle at Dutch also is an objective.

“It’s  much easier to have the boat get rid of it at the time of discard rather than take it to the landfill and it sits there and then we pick it out of the landfill. So we’re really encouraging fishermen to participate in this program, instead of take stuff to the landfill.”

Net Your Problem has been jumpstarting fishing gear recycling in Alaska since 2017. Haines and Juneau have ongoing programs. Kodiak recycles trawl nets and a plan for seines and gillnets is in the works. Baker also hopes to restart gear recycling in Dillingham.

“The latest I’ve heard is that the tribe is no longer running their recycling program. And the landfill doesn’t accept nets in Dillingham. So I’m hoping that those two forces will encourage fishermen and other businesses to still be interested in recycling and do it through me.”

She is doing a survey to estimate how much fishing gear is available for recycling in Alaska. She says almost everyone backs the idea but some landfills make money off dumped gear and that’s often the easiest disposal method.

 “The problem is, how do we pay for it. Just like so many other things, do our values and morals align with  what budgets we have and what the other alternatives cost.”

It comes down to changing human behavior, she says.  Net Your Problem is one of 10 finalists in a global “Solution Search” competition related to plastic pollution that rely on behavior changes.

It is sponsored by the Center for Behaviour and the Environment and the winning entrant receives a $25,000 grant.

Project supporters can vote once per day through June 11.