WASHINGTON, June 6, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- In honor of World Oceans Day on June 8th, Fishing for Energy, the public-private partnership aimed at reducing the adverse effects of derelict fishing gear and marine debris, has announced $150,000 in grant support from Covanta, a world leader in sustainable waste management and renewable energy. The funds will support projects that increase public awareness of the threat derelict gear (gear that is lost in the ocean) and marine debris pose to the marine environment. The Fishing for Energy Fund is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and is a partnership with Covanta, Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program.
Every day, commercial fishermen around the country deploy hundreds of traps and miles of nets into ocean and coastal waters to land their catches. Due primarily to circumstances beyond their control, like powerful weather events and disturbances from other vessels, some gear is lost to the sea. When this happens, fishermen lose not only their gear, but the associated profits as well. Moreover, the lost gear continues to capture fish, which degrades the marine habitat and its resources. This phenomenon is called 'ghost fishing' and is an economic and environmental hardship to fishing industries and coastal communities.
"The world's oceans and waterways are in danger from derelict fishing gear and marine debris. Covanta and our partners have worked with ports across the country to collect dangerous gear and debris – over two million pounds since 2008. We are now proud to expand our focus and resources on education programs to raise awareness about this growing environmental problem," said Margretta Morris, Covanta's vice president for materials management.
The grants from the Fishing for Energy Fund, in partnership with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Targeted Education, will engage millions of visitors annually at three of America's flagship aquariums to better convey the environmental and economic perils of derelict fishing gear and what local communities and businesses can do to help.
"Aquariums play an important role, both providing information and inspiring the public, potentially transforming visitors' heightened interest into conservation action," notes Nancy Hotchkiss, Vice President of Visitor Experience and Education for the National Aquarium. "We know that aquariums are uniquely positioned to reach a broad audience with critical information and in ways that will make a difference. Specifically, we can address challenges like marine debris and derelict and abandoned fishing gear, which have immediate and easily recognized detrimental impact on the animals, habitats, and resources our visitors are inspired to care for."
With the $150,000 provided by Covanta, three projects were awarded funding under the Fishing for Energy Fund:
- The National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland will increase public awareness of the threats associated with marine debris and derelict fishing gear through the development of a new educational outreach curriculum module. A marine debris-focused "lab" will introduce the topic to classrooms in the Mid-Atlantic region beginning in spring of 2014. Additional focus on the topic will be incorporated into the design of an upcoming exhibit featuring the mid- Atlantic seashore ecosystem, scheduled to open at the National Aquarium in early 2015.
- The Sea Research Foundation, Inc. in partnership with Mystic Aquarium will expand the Toolkits for Sustainable Oceans, a hands-on traveling outreach program that was initially established by a previous Fishing for Energy grant. The goals of the toolkit program are to increase awareness, motivate people to actively participate in efforts to protect and restore ocean habitat health and provide tangible actions that the public can take to mitigate their impact on ocean health. Updates to the toolkits will highlight private and public partnerships and community-based solutions to marine debris issues and will expand the reach of the program by partnering with the Coast Guard, The American Association of Port Authorities, and the North American Maritime Ministry Association.
- The Aquarium of the Bay will launch a new interpretive nature center on PIER 39 near Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, where visitors flock each year to see resident California sea lions. Aquarium of the Bay will collaborate with The Marine Mammal Center, which works to rescue and rehabilitate sea lions and other marine life from derelict fishing gear, and with 5 Gyres Institute – which gives plastic pollution in the ocean a global scope. The center will offer new, robust interpretive programming and hands-on activities that will show visitors how they can make a meaningful reduction in derelict fishing gear in San Francisco Bay, near shore coastal areas, and other locations around the world. The Aquarium's naturalist staff will be trained to help educate visitors about the impacts of derelict gear on marine life and simple ways of preventing these materials from entering our waterways.
Along with the grant program, the Fishing for Energy partnership places bins at commercial fishing ports across the country where fishermen can dispose of old, unused or abandoned gear free of charge. Through the placement of these bins and grant activities, more than 2.2 million pounds of gear have been collected by the program since 2008. Gear collected is stripped of metals for recycling with the help of Schnitzer Steel and processed into clean, renewable energy at Covanta's Energy-from-Waste facilities.
Fishing for Energy partners also work closely with state and local agencies, community and fishermen groups, and local ports to assist in the prevention, removal and disposal of derelict fishing gear and facilitates conversations and research at the state and regional levels to address derelict fishing gear issues at scale.
About Fishing for Energy
Fishing for Energy is a partnership between Covanta Corporation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, and Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. The partnership was established in 2008 to address the issue of marine debris and derelict fishing gear. The partnership works to address this problem by providing commercial fishermen with no-cost opportunities to dispose of derelict and retired fishing gear, and by offering grant support for direct assessment, prevention and removal efforts. By assisting in prevention and removal of derelict fishing gear, Fishing for Energy restores the quality of marine and coastal habitats and supports the communities and industries that rely on these resources. For more information, please visit www.nfwf.org/fishingforenergy.
Covanta is a world leader in providing sustainable waste and energy solutions. The Company's 45 Energy-from-Waste facilities provide communities and businesses around the world with environmentally sound solid waste disposal by using 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 clean, renewable electricity to power one million homes and recycle over 440,000 tons of metal. Energy-from-Waste facilities reduce greenhouse gases, complement recycling and are a critical component to sustainable solid waste management. For more information, visit www.covanta.com.
About National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores our nation's wildlife and habitats. Created by Congress in 1984, NFWF directs public conservation dollars to the most pressing environmental needs and matches those investments with private contributions. NFWF works with government, nonprofit and corporate partners to find solutions for the most intractable conservation challenges. NFWF has funded more than 4,000 organizations and committed more than $2.1 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.