MATTITUCK, N.Y., Oct. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Restoration of the Long Island Sound marine habitat took a major step forward today with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's announcement of two grant awards to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County (CCE) to identify and remove more than 118 metric tons (260,000 lbs.) of marine debris, including abandoned lobster pots, from the Sound. Through these awards, provided by the Fishing for Energy Fund and Long Island Sound Futures Fund, CCE will employ up to 45 local lobstermen to identify and remove derelict fishing gear, reclaiming more than 40,000 acres of the sea floor of the Long Island Sound.
"This innovative plan will use federal funds to put local fishermen to work, and use their knowledge of Long Island Sound to make it more hospitable to diverse marine life including commercially valuable species such as lobster," said Congressman Tim Bishop. "I will continue to strongly support the innovative public-private partnerships that have facilitated steady improvement in the Sound's water quality in recent years."
The members of the Long Island Sound Lobstermen's Association and CCE project team will collaborate to identify the location of the gear, remove it from the seabed, and analyze the impact of the derelict fishing gear on the marine habitat. "By reclaiming derelict fishing gear from more than 40,000 acres of the sea floor of Long Island Sound, this project will benefit a variety of species including American lobster, blue crab, horseshoe crab, tautgog, and oyster toad fish," said Mark Tedesco, director of the Long Island Sound Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"I've fished for lobsters off of Long Island Sound for over 40 years and I have never, nor have any of the other fishermen, brought in the old traps we've found and disposed of them. Old traps always stay in the water because of the amount of labor and cost required to dispose of them properly; and since we've switched from wood to vinyl coated wire gear, these traps last indefinitely in the sea. Because of these grants to Cornell and the efforts of local fishermen, we now have the incentive and opportunity to bring in a lot of this lost gear. It's a win-win situation," stated George Doll, local lobsterman.
Once the gear is identified and removed from the Sound itself, the benefit to the local community will continue. "Metals from the lobster pots will be recycled at nearby recycling facilities and the Fishing for Energy partnership will convert the remaining gear into renewable energy at the Hempstead Covanta Energy facility, keeping all of this gear out of landfills while providing power to the local electricity grid," stated Dr. Paul Gilman, chief sustainability officer of Covanta Energy Corporation. Fishermen will operate out of five ports across the region: Northport, Huntington, Oyster Bay, Mt. Sinai, and Mattituck.
"Derelict fishing gear can threaten marine life in a number of ways: by damaging ecosystems, entangling marine life, or 'ghost fishing' by which a net or pot continues to fish after it is lost," said Megan Forbes, national communications coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program. "Derelict gear can also impact navigational safety, damage fishing equipment and boats that are in use, and have economic repercussions for fishing, shipping, and coastal communities."
The grant recipients announced today will build off of methods tested in a pilot project conducted in 2010 with funds awarded to CCE through the Fishing for Energy fund. "In the pilot project, we worked with local lobstermen to identify hotspots where gear was located. The lobstermen devised a longline grapple that was very effective at snagging the gear. Once hooked, the derelict trap would be hauled on board where data would be taken to assess any organisms in the trap and the state of the trap," explained John Scotti of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. "If the traps were still in good condition and had NYS tags, the owners would be contacted. All others were recycled. In the second phase of the project, we will conduct similar work but instead of collecting 2,500 traps, we're going to pull 90,000."
Fishing for Energy is a partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta Energy Corporation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Debris Program, and Schnitzer Steel Industries. With the help of local fishermen, this partnership reduces the amount of unused fishing gear in the marine environment by providing an opportunity for the fishing community to dispose of old or derelict fishing gear and keeping all the collected gear out of landfills by recycling the metals and converting the remaining gear into renewable energy.
Long Island Sound Futures Fund is a partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the Long Island Sound Study, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and NFWF. The partnership funds projects aimed at protecting and restoring the health and living resources of the Long Island Sound by supporting community-based activities that improve land and water resources.
The grants awarded today meet the priorities of both programs and will provide benefits not only to the marine and coastal environments of Long Island Sound, but also the fishing industry itself.
About Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County is a non-profit educational agency dedicated to strengthening families and communities, enhancing and protecting the environment, and fostering countywide economic development. Affiliated with Cornell University, and funded in part by Suffolk County government, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County is part of the state and national extension system that includes the land-grant universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. CCE's sites and program areas include Agriculture, Marine, 4-H Youth Development, Family Health and Wellness, Suffolk County Farm and Education Center, and Suffolk County Peconic Dunes.
About Covanta Energy
Covanta Energy is an internationally recognized owner and operator of large-scale Energy-from-Waste and renewable energy projects and a recipient of the Energy Innovator Award from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Covanta's 44 Energy-from-Waste facilities provide communities with an environmentally sound solution to their solid waste disposal needs by using that municipal solid waste to generate clean, renewable energy. Annually, Covanta's modern Energy-from-Waste facilities safely and securely convert approximately 20 million tons of waste into 9 million megawatt hours of clean renewable electricity and create more than 9 billion pounds of steam that are sold to a variety of industries. For more information, visit www.covantaenergy.com.
NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.
The NOAA Marine Debris Program, housed within the Office of Response & Restoration, coordinates, strengthens, and increases the visibility of marine debris issues and efforts within the agency, its partners, and the public. The program supports activities at both a national and international level focused on identifying, reducing and preventing debris from entering the marine environment. NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) protects coastal and marine resources, mitigates threats, reduces harm, and restores ecological function. The Office provides comprehensive solutions to environmental hazards caused by oil, chemicals, and marine debris. For more information, visit: www.noaa.gov.
EPA Description: The Long Island Sound Study (LISS), sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the states of Connecticut and New York, is a bi-state partnership consisting of federal and state agencies, user groups, concerned organizations, and individuals dedicated to restoring and protecting the Sound. The EPA Long Island Sound Office coordinates the LISS which is administered by EPA as part of the National Estuary Program under the Clean Water Act. The LISS primarily works on seven issues identified in the Long Island Sound Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, including: (1) low oxygen conditions (hypoxia), (2) toxic contamination, (3) pathogen contamination, (4) floatable debris, (5) the impact of these water quality conditions and habitat degradation and loss on living marine resources, (6) land use, and (7) public involvement and education.
About National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
A nonprofit established by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation sustains, restores and enhances the Nation's fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Through leadership conservation investments with public and private partners, NFWF is dedicated to achieving maximum conservation impact by developing and applying best practices and innovative methods for measurable outcomes. Since its establishment, NFWF has funded 3,700 organizations and leveraged $490 million in federal funds into $1.6 billion for conservation. For more information, visit www.nfwf.org.
About Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc.
Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. is one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of recycled ferrous metal products in the United States with 57 operating facilities located in 14 states, Puerto Rico and Western Canada. The Company has seven deep water export facilities located on both the West and East coasts as well as in Hawaii and Puerto Rico. The Company's integrated operating platform also includes its auto parts and steel manufacturing businesses. The Company's auto parts business sells used auto parts through its 50 self-service facilities located in 14 states and Western Canada. With an effective annual production capacity of approximately 800,000 tons, the Company's steel manufacturing business produces finished steel products, including rebar, wire rod and other specialty products. The Company commenced its 105th year of operations in fiscal year 2011.
SOURCE Covanta Energy