It’s hard to think about the thousands of animals - whales, dolphins, turtles and birds - that get caught and die in lost and discarded fishing gear, or ghost gear, every year.
Most of us have seen amazing videos or read heartbreaking stories about whales caught in nets and the often daring rescues that have to happen to save them.
These rescues are so important to protect our precious ocean life but what if we could prevent old nets from getting into the ocean in the first place?
That’s exactly what Joel Baziuk, Operations Supervisor at Steveston Harbour Authority in British Columbia, is doing. We had the pleasure of visiting Joel in late March to hear more about the net recycling program he is involved in with partners Aquafil and Interface Inc. to turn old nets into carpet tiles and other products.
Joel’s initial interest in this program was environmental, as previously the only way to deal with old nets was dumping them or piling them in a landfill but it was the impact on animals that really drove it home. “Although recycling for its own sake is a noble initiative, what really motivates me to grow this program is our ability to help prevent ghost gear from entering the environment and causing such enormous harm to marine animals - in my eyes, this is what really makes this project special.”, he said.
With the first load already shipped to the Aquafil plant in Slovenia, Joel is looking for ways to expand the program to as many other harbours as possible. Local fishers get a second source of income as well. Joel employs them in the off-season to prepare the 40,000 pounds of nylon netting needed for each load.
During our visit I heard Joel say, “I just want to make things better than the way I found them”. I think we’re safe to say that he is well on his way.
Through our Sea Change campaign we are working with individuals like Joel, fishing businesses and governments to stop ghost gear from getting into the ocean, removing it wherever possible and supporting rescue efforts around the world.