Harpswell program will help recycle fishing gear

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HARPSWELL — The Recycling Center will launch a program this month to help fishermen dispose of old and unwanted fishing gear.

“I think this gives local fishermen an opportunity to get rid of some equipment that’s been lying around in boat yards, or wharves, or beaches,” Recycling Center manager Chuck Perow told the Board of Selectmen March 30.

Exclusively for resident fishermen, the Lobster Trap and Bait program will provide regularly scheduled drop-offs for used or outmoded equipment – lobster traps, buoys, rope, netting, etc. – on Wednesdays and Thursdays, starting April 12.

It is made possible with support from national organizations such as the National Fish and Wildlife Association, and NOAA. The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association helped coordinate both the implementation and outreach to area fishermen.

Driving through Harpswell’s numerous fishing communities, it’s not uncommon to see lobster traps stacked in yards and fences dressed with buoys. But without a proper place to dispose of damaged or antiquated equipment, gear can end up littering marine environments and posing a hazard to area wildlife.

“We’re trying to make sure this stuff isn’t just cut loose and left overboard or on the ocean bottom,” Perow said by phone on Tuesday.

Much fishing gear is recyclable, but until this month, the town hasn’t had a way of conveniently and regularly recycling it.

Harpswell used to host an annual “gear grab” – a single day, usually in the spring – when fishermen could drop off gear, according to Perow.

This new program will “effectively take its place,” and provide not only regularly scheduled disposals, but staff to ensure that unwanted gear is properly sorted and recycled.

Perow said he knows of similar local programs that failed because residents used the drop-off sites to dispose of nonrecyclable junk and furniture.

“It’s a little bit of an ambitious project, but I think we’re up to the task and I think we’re gonna give it a good go,” Perow told selectmen, adding if Harpswell executes the job smoothly, it could be a model for other fishing communities.

To ensure that, Perow and his lean staff at the Recycling Center are relying on fishermen to abide by strict rules of disposal.

The center cannot accept bricks, masonry, hazardous materials, boat parts, concrete runners, or weights (unless the metal is in or on traps). More information is available at the center, at 39 Mountain Road.

Fishermen must show proof of residency before unloading gear at the center’s designated areas.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Lobster traps stacked in a yard on Bailey Island.

Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.