The Urk fishing community, the municipality of Urk, and Healthy Seas have today signed a cooperation agreement in Urk, the Netherlands. This agreement marks the start of cooperation to bring the old fishing nets from Urk into the Healthy Seas recycling process and so to ensure that as few nets as possible end up in the sea. It is a big step forward in building close cooperation with the fishing industry in the Netherlands.

With the help of divers and salvage companies, Healthy Seas removes ‘ghost nets’ from the sea – in the North Sea these are mainly a legacy of the last century – and works with fishing communities to recycle old fishing nets. Some of the nets are transformed into ECONYL®, a high-quality yarn. This yarn is used by various companies to manufacture clothing and carpets. The Dutch company Star Sock, one of the founders of Healthy Seas, makes socks from ECONYL® yarn.

With over a hundred fishing boats, the Urk fishing fleet is the largest in the Netherlands. A Healthy Seas depot is being opened in Urk and it is expected that about 150 tons of fishing nets per year will be collected. Until now, the nets were taken to the waste processing facility in Delfzijl for incineration. Under this new cooperation agreement, the old nets have once more become a raw material, reducing the need to call on non-renewable resources, such as oil. Recycling therefore provides benefits for the environment, including a reduction in CO2, which contributes to climate change. Local awareness-raising activities about fisheries and sustainability are also planned.

Andries de Boer, initiator of the Urk side of the cooperation and Director of L. de Boer & Zn B.V. fishing fleet in Urk, is pleased with this unique collaboration. This sentiment is echoed by the municipality of Urk: “This collaboration kills three birds with one stone: the Urk fishermen can hand in their old nets almost free of charge, nets and other nylon will no longer have to be incinerated, and the North Sea will be cleaner and healthier,” said a municipality spokesperson.

Rob Wolters, Chief Executive of the ECNC Land & Sea Group (the coordinator of Healthy Seas) said: “We are very pleased with the cooperation with the fishing community in Urk and the municipality of Urk. There is a high level of commitment among the fishing community and the municipality to work towards a more sustainable economy and North Sea.

When the depot is Urk is full, the nets will be collected by Healthy Seas partner Nofir and recycled at Aquafil’s high-tech factory in Slovenia to make ECONYL® yarn.

On 1 December, the first transport from Urk, left for recycling to Slovenia: almost 20 tons of fishnets! This transport puts the cooperation in practice, resulting in resource efficiency and a considerable reduction in climate impact. See photos below.

Photo from left to right: Mr J. Loosman, Urk Fisheries Cooperative; Ms Veronika Mikos, Healthy Seas; Mr Rob Wolters, ECNC Land & Sea Group; Mr Juriean Brands, Municipality of Urk; Alderman G. Post, Municipality of Urk; Mr P. Visser, Dutch Fishermen Union VisNed; Mr L. Hakvoort, Osprey Fish; Mr A. de Boer, Fishing Fleet Owner L. de Boer & Zn and Mr E.P. Kramer, Waste Handling Company VOF B.J. Kramer