The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


2015 Finalist

NET-WORKS: From fishing nets to carpet tiles

NET-WORKS: From fishing nets to carpet tiles

Net-Works is an innovative, cross-sector initiative designed to tackle the growing environmental problem of discarded fishing nets in some of the world’s poorest coastal communities. The programme has established a replicable community-based supply chain for collecting discarded fishing nets in rural coastal areas in the central Philippines, including the Danajon Bank, one of only six double-barrier reefs in the world, and the nearby Bantayan Islands. To achieve this, Net-Works combines the expertise of a global conservation charity, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), and the world’s leading carpet tile manufacturer, Interface, Inc.

As of March 2015, 61,845 kg of discarded fishing nets, equivalent to a fishing net length of 57,515 km, have been collected from the 14 pilot sites in Danajon Bank and the Bantayan Islands at an average rate of 3,000 kg of nets per month. The income from the export and sale of these nets is used to maintain the community based supply chain.

Sustainable mechanisms for solid waste management are generally not available in these remote fishing communities. Discarded fishing nets dumped on beaches or into the sea, can continue to catch fish for centuries. These nets undermine existing conservation efforts and the sustainability of the fish stocks on which the fishing communities depend. By attaching a value to these nets and a way of disposing of them, Net-Works helps to clear existing discarded nets off beaches and out of the sea.

The supplementary income earned by fishers and community members by collecting the nets also helps to offset the opportunity costs of engaging in this conservation activity – a concept that is very important when considering how to make conservation ‘pro-poor’ and sustainable. Additionally, Net-Works is integrated with community banking systems which support the reduction of transaction costs and ensure sustainability, whilst also providing access to financial services for their members.

Net-Works aims to expand into one new country per year for the next two years. The company has started with two hubs in the central Philippines and are in the process of establishing a third hub in the Philippines as well as a fourth in Cameroon through the help and support of UK government’s Darwin Initiative and the US Department of State Regional Environment Office. The goal is the engagement of 10,000 people in the supply chain by 2020 in support of marine conservation initiatives.

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