Are you Christmas shopping for the person who has everything?

Former area politician and fisherman Sterling Belliveau seeks to take fishing rope out of our oceans and landfills and put them into people’s homes in the form of holiday decorations, floor mats, baskets and boat fenders.

Belliveau, 69, knows his way around a length or two of fishing rope. Since the age of 15, when he left school and got his own lobster fishing boat, Belliveau has had a relationship with the seas in one form or another.

“That was typically our culture then. When you got old enough to work, you started following the footsteps of your father, I guess,” said Belliveau.

After 38 years of fishing, he became involved in local and later provincial politics, where his interest in waste reduction was born.

Belliveau first functioned as a town councillor for nine years in the Municipality of the District of Barrington in southwest Nova Scotia. He then served in provincial politics for 11 years as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party, four of which Belliveau served as the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Minister of Environment.

“Pardon the pun here, but there’s a pun coming; I know the ropes,” said Belliveau.

“Pretty well every environment minister in the Atlantic provinces will have a mandate letter on their desk saying, ‘We’ve got to do something about plastics in our ocean and rope and this is a serious number one priority.’ If you go back 20 or 30 years, you remember the four Rs and our waste management, especially in Atlantic Canada and Nova Scotia, we wanted to become leaders in the world of recycling waste… Fast forward to 2017 and I’m just sitting here and observing the hundreds of tonnes of rope each year going to our landfills.”

After his retirement from politics, the former MLA was looking for something to do and started plastic welding, where he repaired gear like lobster crates. This, however, was only a seasonal gig, leaving him looking for something in the off-season.

“I looked at that rope for a number of years and I’m saying, ‘There’s got to be something we can do to utilize that,’” said Belliveau.

And utilize it he did.

Belliveau started creating all manners of decorative and practical designs from hundreds of tonnes of fishing rope. One of Belliveau’s most popular designs is an unadorned wreath made from assorted colours of rope, the idea being that the buyer can decorate it to their liking.

“You can utilize a lot of rope and they’re strong. The wreaths that you see at the local hardware store or the dollar store, they’re made of wire and they’re only going to last a few years. But the rope is going to outlast them ten-fold,” said Belliveau. “I’m not a decorator, so that’s my problem. I just try to say, ‘Okay, here’s a basic wreath.’ And people like them for the nautical look.”

Belliveau also creates decorations for other holidays, such a huge rope pumpkin that serves as a great decoration for Thanksgiving and Halloween.

“They start off within one little square of rope and I just keep making a spear and wrapping and twisting it and wrapping it and twisting it. You’re utilizing a lot of material and that’s what it’s all about.”

Belliveau is also trying to garner interest in his newest project: boat fenders made from recycled rope. He hopes to create a sustainable product to replace the standard plastic balloon used by a majority of ships, which he says do not last as long as his handmade fenders and serve to add to the plastic waste in our landfills and oceans.

“There’s 15,000 commercial fishing boats in Atlantic Canada. I repeat, 15,000. That’s a lot of boat fenders and by the way they use them on both sides,” said Belliveau.

“The fishing industry creates this waste, so they need to learn to incorporate how they can repurpose it. And we’re nowhere near that in those 15,000 opportunities and we’re not even talking about the recreational component of it, and they would have the same demand. By the way, that boat fender was the initial boat fender back 150 years ago in the golden age of sails. We’ve come to an age where it’s just so simple to go out and buy a plastic balloon.”

Due to the weight of most of his products, as well as the time needed to create them, Belliveau does not normally ship his products. His business is local to his home in Barrington, N.S. Anyone interested in a Christmas wreath, a floor mat, a rope swing or even a boat fender can stop by his home at 6239 Highway #3, Wood’s Harbour, N.S.

“You can stop into my home here,” said Belliveau. “I got a little workshop. You stop in, help yourself and you leave your money. It’s an honour system.”