Discarded fishing nets are beginning to find second life as sunglasses, swimsuits and more

WORLDWIDE — Fishing nets have allowed for sustenance – an ability to feed man and also create the industry that grants fishermen jobs. On the more negative and controversial end, fishing nets have encroached upon endangered and extinct species – most notably of the porpoise variety such as the critically endangered vaquita or the recently vanquished river dolphin, baiji.

While the fishing net has had so many impactful uses, good and bad, manufacturers of various products, from Volvo to Volcom, have begun looking for ways to reuse heavy, discarded fishing nets to make new swimwear, sunglasses and even cars.

Plastics have been threatening the environment for decades as can be witnessed by studies on The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Off the coast of the Cayman Islands recently, a massive balled up gill net has been traveling the ocean, engulfing large quantities of fish. And there are likely more of these discarded nets out there. NOAA reported that some of the nets are as long as 2 miles long and can cause marine life to become entangled, struggling for their life.

However, there may be a creative solution in sight. Several big-name companies have seen this dilemma and have used or plan to use recycled fishing net in the products they make. Volvo, for instance, announced they plan to use 25 percent of fishing net products and recycled plastics by 2025. Costa, a designer of high-end sunglasses, recently announced a partnering with Bureo, “the pioneer in recycled fishnet products,” to turn discarded nets into high-quality sunglasses.

In Alaska, on Sept. 8 and 9, an event called Alaska Net Hack Challenge will be held to challenge others to make new items from old nets. Many of the agencies involved have been in the fishery industry and cooperate with the local fishing industry to transform the waste into resources.

Many fishermen, most as concerned as the rest of the world, have begun hauling in their dangerous nets, according to an article by The National Geographic, to prevent even more pollution. An Indian fisherman, who mentioned he is not opposed to using the tactics of guilt to get fishermen to recycle, told The National Geographic, “I tell them, ‘If you keep polluting the ocean with plastic … as fishermen our livelihoods will cease to exist.”

While these nets have become a burden to the ocean, it is a possibility they can again grow into an industry – and create some unique things while increasing jobs too.

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