MIDDLETOWN, NJ - The New Jersey Seafood Cooperative of Belford is the latest addition to the Fishing for Energy initiative, the program providing commercial fishermen a cost-free way to recycle old and unusable fishing gear. Gear, such as rope and fishing nets collected at the Co-op will be processed into clean, renewable energy at the Covanta Union Energy-from-Waste facility in Rahway, NJ.

The Belford Seafood Coop is located at  901 Port Monmouth Rd, Belford, NJ 07718. A fresh fish retail market and restaurant is located on site. Call (732) 787-6508 for more information.

Fishing for Energy is a partnership between the Morristown, NJ-based Covanta Energy (Covanta), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, and Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. It was established in 2008 to reduce the financial burden imposed on commercial fishermen when disposing of old, derelict (gear that is lost in the marine environment), or unusable fishing gear and thereby reduce the amount of gear that ends up in U.S. coastal waters. Metal items are recycled at Schnitzer Steel Industry facilities and the remaining material is converted into renewable energy at Covanta Energy-from-Waste facilities.

At a ceremony held Monday at the Belford Seafood Cooperative, the partnership installed a collection bin for old, abandoned or lost fishing gear from area commercial fishermen. Among those in attendence were Congressman Frank Pallone, state Senator Joseph Kyrillos, Deputy Mayor Pamela Brightill and Planning and Community Development Director Jason Greenspan.

Deputy Mayor Brightill said at the ceremony that she was happy to see the program come to Middletown and that it dovetailed perfectly with township efforts to live greener. She also noted Middletown is a Sustainable Jersey certified municipality.

By placing the collection bin at the Co-op, it makes it easy for fishermen to participate, significantly increasing the likelihood that derelict gear does not end up in the marine environment. Abandoned or lost fishing equipment can threaten marine life in a number of ways; by damaging ecosystems as nets and heavy equipment settle upon the ocean floor or through 'ghost fishing,' wherein a net continues to catch fish, even if abandoned or lost. Gear can also impact navigational safety, damage fishing equipment and boats that are in use, and have economic repercussions on fishing and shipping enterprises and coastal communities.

Fishing for Energy thrives due to extensive cooperation between government, private, public and local organizations. The diversity and unparalleled expertise of the partners results in a unique, community-focused program that addresses a marine environmental issue, reduces costs for small commercial fishing businesses and recycles metal and recovers energy from the remaining material.

Since launching in 2008, Fishing for Energy has reeled in more than 1.1 million pounds of old fishing gear, a portion of which has been retrieved directly from the ocean by fishermen. In 2010,Fishing for Energy was awarded the prestigious Coastal America Partnership Award, which is presented to groups that restore and protect coastal ecosystems through collaborative action and partnership. The partnership has also expanded to include a grant program that directly supports efforts to remove derelict fishing gear from U.S. coastal waters and will continue to partner with new ports to promote retired or derelict fishing gear collection through community education and outreach. For more information on the partnership visit: www.nfwf.org/fishingforenergy.