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Commercial Fishing



Dutch Harbor contributing to net recycling. More shipping containers filled with plastic fishing nets, crab lines and other gear left Dutch Harbor in November for recycling plants in Europe, and two more will soon follow from that port and Kodiak.

“We’re accepting trawl and crab line and halibut gear and all of it is going to Bulgaria to be sorted,” said Nicole Baker, founder of Net Your Problem and the force behind the recycling effort that began loading and shipping gear last year.

“I expect that three more containers from Dutch will be going to Europe in the next few weeks, so we should have seven containers by the end of 2018. That would tie the amount that was recycled last year,” Baker said.

That will add up to nearly 300,000 pounds of old fishing gear again being removed from landfills and storage lots. All end up at a recycling company in Denmark called Plastix, where the materials are made into new products.

“Once the nets get there, they grind them up and melt them down and turn them into pellets that are resold to plastics buyers to turn into water bottles or phone cases or whatever you might choose to make out of it,” Baker explained.

Fishing gear made from combined plastics also is included in the program.

“We can also recycle what I call mixed plastics which is normally what crab line and some types of halibut line are made out of,” she said, adding that nylon-based gear used primarily in gillnets and seines is the only plastic not accepted yet.

“I am currently working with some nylon recyclers to try to add that to the suite of materials that I can accept, maybe next year or the year after,” Baker said.

Funding for the ongoing project comes from the Global Ghost Gear Initiative and the recycling push also is a growing partnership with fishermen and local companies.

Baker, who was a fisheries observer for five years and currently works as research assistant at the University of Washington in Seattle, hopes to expand her recycling footprint in and outside of Alaska.

“If you have gear to recycle and you don’t have a program already established, don’t let that stop you from reaching out,” she said. “I’m in the process of starting new programs in Alaska and also, hopefully, on the west coast.”