Vineyard commercial fishermen will soon be able to dispose of their fishing gear debris for free through a partnership involving a federal program, Island and off-Island businesses and the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse Disposal and Resource Recovery District. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s program Fishing For Energy aims to cut down on the illegal dumping of debris offshore. The program will run Feb. 27 to March 27.
The federal program has been around since 2008 and has been a success, including on Cape Cod.
Erin Hofmann of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation said in five years it has responsibly removed two million pounds of debris nationwide, half of it from the Cape Cod area. The program originated on a small scale in Hawaii, she said.
Lynne Fraker, a Vineyard Haven fisherman and member of the Martha’s Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen’s Association, led the effort to bring the program to the Vineyard late last summer
“I realized there was a need . . . I knew there was a program on the Cape. I knew it was successful and it didn’t cost anything,” she said.
She nominated the Vineyard for the program last September.
“We are more than happy to assist,” said Donald Hatch, manager of the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse Disposal District. “We have the space available. We often work with nonprofits.”
Under the program, fishing debris is transferred off-Island through the regional refuse district transfer station in Edgartown. “We are more than happy to assist,” district manager Don Hatch said. He said the trash company Bruno’s Rolloff will be involved. Schnitzer Steel, which has a facility in Johnstown, R.I., will recover the metal. Most of the gear will be taken to SECONN, a Covanta Energy facility in Preston, Conn., where combustible materials are transformed into renewable energy.
All participating companies are charging no fees for handling the debris, Mrs. Hofmann said.
“They are philanthropic. They recognize the impact that fishing gear has on coastal communities,” she said.
Gregory Mayhew, a Menemsha commercial fisherman, said the program has merit because gear disposal can be expensive.
“This will be a great value to the fishermen,” he said. “Potentially a fisherman could save hundreds of dollars.”
The refuse district has already been involved in other ways to reduce debris on the waterfront, and takes waste collected during Islandwide beach cleanups for no fee.
The district also hosts a program to collect discarded boat shrink wrap. A 40-yard container at the transfer station is dedicated to collecting the white plastic now used routinely by marinas and private boat owners for outdoor boat storage during the off-season. Farmers who use polypropylene to wrap hay bales may also dump the plastic for free. The program began in 2008 and is facilitated by the Vineyard Conservation Society. Some 10,000 pounds of plastic is collected annually, according to Signe Benjamin, operations and membership coordinator at the society.
“Every year it is more,” she said.