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Marine Institute receives $15K to recycle fishing nets

Nonprofit will collect the nets and ship them to Oahu to be converted to energy

A juvenile scalloped hammerhead shark is found in a derelict fishing net at Sugar Beach in August 2019. Photos courtesy Tommy Cutt

The Maui News

The Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute is receiving nearly $15,000 in funding to collect and recycle fishing nets from around Maui.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced last week about $121,700 in grants to organizations around the country to help them collect and dispose of derelict fishing gear along U.S. coastlines. The funding is anticipated to help prevent more than 200,000 pounds of fishing gear from potentially entering the coastal waters of Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Washington.

The Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute is receiving a $9,478 grant with matching funds of $5,289 — which will come from private donations to the institute — for a total of $14,767. The institute will be able to use the funds to work with local commercial fishermen at Maui’s harbors to collect decommissioned fishing nets. The project goal is to convert six tons of nets to energy.

Tommy Cutt, executive director of the nonprofit institute, said that a 20-foot collection bin will be placed in Maalaea by mid-August. The funds will be used to support the cost of the bin, staff time and shipment of nets to Honolulu.

Recovered derelict fishing net sits on the shore at Waihee Beach Park in February.

“The nets will be shipped to Schnitzer Steel Hawaii Corporation scrap metal facility, where they will be chopped into small pieces suitable for combustion,” Cutt said in an email Wednesday. “The pieces will then be sent to the City of Honolulu H-Power energy-from-waste facility run by Covanta Energy.”

The grants were awarded through the Fishing for Energy Bin Program, a partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta, Schnitzer Steel Industries and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program. Fishing for Energy aims to provide a cost-free solution to fishermen to dispose of old, derelict or unusable fishing gear and to reduce the amount of this equipment in and around coastal waterways.

This year marks the inaugural round of grants through the program, which was established in 2008.

On Maui, the Marine Institute also has been working to recycle fishing line along the coast, creating a program in June 2018 to install recycling bins and instructional signage at high-traffic shoreline fishing locations around the island. The program has now expanded to 37 sites, and since June 2018 has collected more than 20 miles of line, weights and derelict fishing gear, the institute said in a news release Friday. Cutt said the fishing line is sent to the Berkeley Conservation Institute for recycling.

Fishing gear poses a major threat to sea turtles, and entanglement can cause deep cuts that may lead to infections, limited movement, complete loss of a flipper or death.

Community members can help by putting old fishing line in recycling bins and retrieving and reusing lost gear if possible. They can also participate in underwater cleanups and report their findings to info@mocmarineinstitute.org.

For tips and guidance on fishing around sea turtles, visit www.fisheries.noaa.gov/pacific-islands/resources-fishing/fishing-around-seals-and-turtles.

To report a sick, injured or otherwise distressed sea turtle, call the marine institute’s sea turtle stranding response line at (808) 286-2549 or the statewide marine animal response hotline at (888) 256-9840.

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