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Roping in marine debris in the Bay of Fundy, and beyond

N.B. organization minimizing pollution left by fishermen
Travis Fortnum tells us about a program in southern New Brunswick, looking to untangle a big source of marine pollution.

Jackie Walker says a project she’s been working on has kept 12,000 pounds of rope out of the Bay of Fundy.

Walker is the outreach co-ordinator at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick.

READ MORE: 1.8 million items of garbage strewn over Bay of Fundy bottom, study estimates

In March 2018, she launched a recycling program for the plastic-based ropes often used in the fishing industry.

Jackie Walker ourtreach co-ordinator at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in Saint Andrews.
Jackie Walker ourtreach co-ordinator at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in Saint Andrews. Travis Fortnum / Global News

“We started the project with these big four-foot-by-four metal bins,” Walker says.

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“They go out on the wharves and we put four of them out at four different harbours — Grand Manan, Deer Island, Dipper Harbour and Beaver Harbour — to try to see what would happen…”

“It turned out that it worked.”

The program which started as a one-year pilot is now approaching the two-year mark and still growing.

Federal government cracking down on abandoned fishing equipment
Federal government cracking down on abandoned fishing equipment

“The Port of Saint John reached out to us,” Walker says.

“They had seen our bins and knew that they had an opportunity because they had users of the port saying that they were either finding rope when they were out on the water or bringing rope back into shore.”

Walker and her team brought eight bins to Saint John late last year.

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The bins have collected over 12,000 pounds of rope, says Walker.
The bins have collected over 12,000 pounds of rope, says Walker. Travis Fortnum / Global News

“We’re proud to be part of the program,” says Paula Copeland, Director of Communications for Port Saint John.

“We’ve encouraged our stakeholders to put any rope bits or pieces they’re not going to use and we’ll take care of getting the bins to the collection point for the program.”

But what happens to the rope once it’s in Walker’s hands?

“Right now,” she says, “we’re collecting it and taking it to a facility in Pennfield, New Brunswick, and there it is being stockpiled for eventual recycling.”

For recycled material to go beyond that storage phase, there needs to be an end market.

READ MORE: Fundy Regional Service Commission to stop recycling plastic bags

“Currently there’s only a few facilities in North America that can process that kind of material,” Walker says of the recycled ropes.

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“It sounds like there’s some more options in the pipeline … there are other facilities that are starting to use products like that.”

In the meantime, the Huntsman Marine Science Centre has found a crafty way to repurpose some of the rope.

Huntsman Marine Science Centre has given people the opportunity to craft with some of the recycled ropes.
Huntsman Marine Science Centre has given people the opportunity to craft with some of the recycled ropes. Submitted by Huntsman Marine Science Centre

“We’re weaving mats and trivets and all kinds of things with the rope,” Walker says.

And, she says, anyone who comes across a full bin is welcome to take some for their own DIY project.

“We encourage people to go out and take the rope out of these bins,” says Walker.

“They’re a collection site for easy disposal but they’re free for use for everyone.”

Walker says the bins have collected over 12,000 pounds of rope.
Walker says the bins have collected over 12,000 pounds of rope. Travis Fortnum / Global News

Walker says groups in other Maritime provinces have reached out to her, interested in getting a similar project started in their region.

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