Progress Update: Sonapesca-Bureo Partnership

To date there have been more than 1,400 Our Ocean commitments across 6 themes submitted by almost 350 organizations across all sectors – governments, businesses, academic institutions, and civil society. Over 500 commitments have been self-reported as 100% complete and almost 500 self-report some form of progress.  In this Our Ocean Palau blog series, we highlight Our Ocean commitments and their positive impact.

Sonapesca-Bureo Partnership Finds Net Positives in Gear Recycling Scheme

The Issue

Marine plastic pollution captured the public’s imagination and rose to the top of global concerns on ocean stressors. However, while campaigns to ban single-use items are certainly worth pursuing, the fishing industry remains a significant contributor of plastics in our ocean.

With its 4,270km of coastline and the seventh largest fishing region in the world, Chile is only too aware of the issue – and Sonapesca, the country’s national fisheries society, took action and confronted the reality of the situation head on.

Since 2014, Sonapesca – representing 109 industrial fisheries of various sizes – has been working with a company called Bureo (‘Waves’ in Chile’s indigenous Mapuche language). Together, they ensure that fishing nets in Chile are no longer discarded when they come to the end of their lives. Instead, they’re collected, processed and recycled into all kinds of other products, with profits from the sale of the reused plastic going into sustainable community projects.

Commitment Summary

In 2017 Sonapesca and Bureo made a Our Ocean commitment to roll out an innovative initiation on a national level. The ‘Net Positiva’ or ‘Net Plus’ programme was set up to provide all discarded fishing nets to Bureo to recycle for free, creating items as diverse as sunglasses, sports clothing, office chairs and skateboards, all of which gain environmental prestige from the previous life of their raw materials and the reduced GHG emissions involved in their construction processes.

By 2019, the last Our Ocean conference, Bureo was working on similar schemes with Peru, Ecuador, Mexico and Argentina. Such knowledge-sharing is of course a central element of the Our Ocean events, and Sonapesca continues to play a leading role in this area: ocean conservation is a global challenge that needs global solutions, and that means global collaboration.

Project Update

  • Since their commitment in 2019, Sonapesca and Bureo have continued to increase production, collecting more than 800,000kg of end of life fishing nets for recycling across four participating countries (Chile, Peru, Argentina, US) in 2021.
  • Sonapesca and Bureo are now on track to increase this again in 2022, where they are planning to source more than 1,000,000kg of nets across six countries (Chile, Peru, Argentina, US, Mexico, Ecuador).
  • In addition to continuing to grow their net collection and recycling program, Sonapesca and Bureo’s recent work with Patagonia has led them to the launch of their 100% recycled fishing net material (NetPlus) in fabric form, which Patagonia launched in a line of jackets in 2021. This milestone enabled the growth of the program and now they are focused on scaling to recycle more than 4,000,000kg of net annually in the next five years.
  • The Sonapesca and Bureo partnership has since led Bureo to an even greater partnership. In 2021, Bureo signed a new agreement with ALPESCAS to support Bureo in providing their fishing net collection and recycling solution to their member fisheries in all 11 participating countries across Latin America. This expansion of the partnership network is providing Bureo with the critical support they need to continue with their mission to end fishing net pollution.


Photo Credit: Bureo