Steveston Harbour Authorities gives new life to fishing nets

Richmond Harbour Authorities have launched a new fishing net recycling program after the old program fell through.

When Glenn Chow joined the Steveston Harbour Authority about two years ago, there were many stripped fishing nets waiting to be recycled — but there was no way to recycle them.

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They were discarded nets fishermen sent to the authority’s earlier recycling program, which collected fishing nets in Canada and shipped them to recycling plants in countries such as China, Slovenia and the Philippines.

“(The program) kind of fell through because China, I believe, put more tariffs on imports into China because they didn’t want everyone’s garbage, and nets were considered garbage on their way to recyclers,” said Chow, operations and security manager for Steveston Harbour Authority.

“And other places want a large number of nets that we wouldn’t be able to gather...So we were stuck with a whole bunch of nets sitting there. There were times when we just had to bury them because we had no way of recycling them.”

fish net
Steveston Harbour Authorities accepts fishnets from B.C. for free. Photo submitted

Chow and his colleagues spent a lot of time looking for alternatives and last year they finally came across a new local recycling company, SOP Recycling Richmond Inc., that would take these nets.

Now, the authority’s British Columbia Commercial Fishing Net Recycling Program accepts fishnets from B.C. for free — fishermen can arrange a time to drop the nets or ship them to the authority’s site in Steveston. The authority will receive a fee from the depot to sustain the program, according to Chow. 

“We are going to take anybody’s nets in B.C., have a team of net strippers, who are basically fishermen, pay them to strip the nets and take out the stuff that is not recyclable, weigh and bag them, and send them to the recycling depot in Richmond,” explained Chow.

“Then (SOP) turns the nets into pellets. Once They are in pellet form, they can be sent to China because they are now usable products and don’t have those tariffs.”

Chow said the discarded fishing nets are “huge” problems across Canada where many fishermen just cut the worn-out nets and dropped them into the sea, to avoid the high cost of sending them to the landfill.

“It would get the fish and ocean animals caught up in the nets and cause all sorts of hazards,” said Chow.

“(And) it’s not a material that’s easily broken down. It’s bad for the environment just to bury it. And plus that nylon is being reused in different products, and the poly is actually chopped up as fuel for use in cement factories.”

“In the past two to three months, 27,130 kilograms have been sent to the depot in four separate deliveries,” added Chow.

For more information about the program, check StevestonHarbour.com.

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