Belford Seafood Co-op joins recycling program

Fishing for Energy keeps fishing gear out of ocean

The New Jersey Seafood Cooperative of Belford, Middletown, became the latest addition to the Fishing for Energy initiative, a program that provides commercial fishermen a cost-free way to recycle old and unusable gear.

At a ceremony on Aug. 12 at the Belford Co-op, Fishing for Energy installed a collection bin and welcomed the co-op as its 25th port community.

“This is something we have long waited for,” Joe Branin, manager of the co-op said. “It cost us too much to bring it to the dumpster so we stored it in the back, where it piled up. We wanted to clean this place up and now we can.”

Fishing for Energy is a partnership between the Morristown-based Covanta Energy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NWFW), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program and Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc. that began in 2008 and has expanded to 24 ports across the country.

By placing the collection bin at the co-op, not only does it make it easier for fishermen to dispose of their gear, but also it increases the likelihood that the gear doesn’t end up in the ocean, said Nancy Wallace, director of the NOAA marine debris program.

Abandoned or lost fishing equipment can threaten marine life in a number of ways: by damaging ecosystems as nets and heavy equipment settle upon the ocean floor or through ghost fishing, wherein a net continues to catch fish, even if abandoned or lost.

“This means the fish aren’t being harvested, which can have an economic impact on the fishing and shipping industry,” Wallace said.

Gear can also impact navigational safety and damage fishing equipment and boats that are in use. “This program is a win-win situation.” Wallace said. “Fishermen can get rid of their gear for free, it stays out of the ocean and we can recycle it.”

According to Paul Gilman, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer at Covanta Energy, the gear that is collected is taken to a Schnitzer Steel facility, where the gear is stripped of metals. From there it is taken to the nearest Covanta Energy-from- Waste facility, where the gear is converted into clean renewable electricity for local communities.

“For every ton that is recycled, we produce enough electricity to fuel a home for 25 days,” Gilman said, adding that each collection bin can hold approximately nine tons of gear.

Local officials in attendance welcomed the Fishing-for-Energy program.

“We wanted to find new, innovative ways to dispose of this gear,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th District) who has sponsored legislation on marine debris. “We need to take this creative approach to all aspects of our government,” Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-13th District) said.

Gilman explained that funding for the program mainly comes from grants or from the organizations themselves.

“This program is not a money maker.” Gilman said. “We pay for the costs of moving the gear to and from each location as well as the costs to strip and recycle.”

Yet, Fishing for Energy continues to expand, welcoming more and more ports into its community each year.

“We try and make everyone who wants to participate part of this program. We have yet to turn anybody away,” Gilman said. “The costs are a small price to pay for the benefits that come out of it.”

For more information on the partnership and the Fishing for Energy program, visit