The photo that inspired me to find out what happened to the natural fiber rope trade, once dominated by Philippine “Manila Hemp”

While reading about the 2014 International Coastal Clean-up Day I came across this beach clean-up photo by Kip Evans.

plastic rope debris photo by Kip Evans

The image — and knowing something about ghost nets in our oceans — had me curious about marine trash washed up on the beach and remaining in our oceans, and specifically, when the world switched from using biodegradable natural fiber fish nets and ropes (photos below) to synthetic or plastic, petrochemical-based ropes.

In the process, I learned how the Philippine fiber, abaca, known as “Manila hemp” dominated the natural fiber rope industry starting in the mid 1800’s…

abaca hemp warehouse Manila late 1800s

Traders at abaca warehouse, Manila, Philippines late 1800’s. Bales of abaca are at bottom right of photograph. Photo source: The Philippine Islands by Ramon Reyes Lala via the Gutenberg website, published in 1898 by the Continental Publishing Company.

…and how a material invented in the 1930’s and originally designed as a fabric to replace women’s silk stockings signaled the decline of abaca / Manila hemp as a prime material for the natural rope and cordage industry.

Interested in a bit of history?  Link to the article on Native Leaf’s blog here (The switch from natural fiber abaca, hemp ropes to synthetic ropes).

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Now that you are here, I would love to know what you think...comments are always appreciated.