Be line conscious. That is the call to fishermen during their days on or near the water.
With summer in full swing and the sport of fishing as invigorating as ever, disposing of any used or loose fishing line can be important to the livelihood of all creatures around the sea and even humans.
Joy Hazell, Florida Sea Grant agent with UF/IFAS Lee County Extension, manages 45 monofilament stations at boat ramps and fishing piers throughout Lee County, including stations at the Beach Pier, Matanzas Pass Preserve and Bowditch Point Park on Estero Island. She says that while monofilament has been around for less than 100 years, it is usually non-biodegradable and scientists estimate it can take 300 to 500 years to decompose.
The monofilament “tube” was reinstalled at the Beach Pier after construction. Information signage is nearby.
"When it's in the environment, it can do some real damage, especially in our mangrove forest. It can get tangled in there and tangled in birds, fish and divers in reefs," said Hazell. "It's not going to disintegrate or go away."
Monofilament stations -also at most marinas- are not only handy, they are important for the environment. Yet, education is needed.
"These stations can do two things. They obviously provide a recycling network, which is great, because we are reusing the plastic," she said. "But, they also raise awareness that leaving your fishing line out in the environment is not a good thing. People must know that even if you are not near a recycling bin, you should take your line, carry it in a safe place and cut it up really small in case it gets back in the environment where it can entrap living things."
The clear, strong, flexible plastic can be difficult to spot on the water or beach where shore birds make their nests or rest from flight or swimmers just want to engage in a relaxing exercise session. Collecting the monofilament line is a process that involves environmentally conscious anglers placing their leftovers in the available bins.
"That's the only thing that is supposed to go in there. It isn't for trash, hooks or weights. It's supposed to be only for line," Hazell said.
Monofilament stations are usually placed near trashcans to signify separate uses and alleviate the burden of cleaning excess garbage from the receptacle. The stations are then emptied out, and line is separated from debris attached to it.
"From that point, the line is brought to indoor recycling bins. Most fishing tackle shops have those. We have one located at Rutenburg Park and Terry Park," said Hazell. "From there, it is sent to Berkley Recycling Center in (Spirit Lake,) Iowa and recycled into fishing products like tackle boxes or park benches."
The Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program is Florida wide and an effort "to educate the public on the problems caused by monofilament line left in the environment, to encourage recycling through a network of line recycling bins and drop-off locations, and to conduct volunteer monofilament line cleanup."
Each fall, Keep Lee County Beautiful runs a marine cleanup program related to the cleanup of fishing line. Called Monofilament Madness, the program's success is measured by the growing awareness and willingness of hundreds of volunteers to dedicate a day to the cause.
Monofilament Madness was begun by fishermen and will celebrate its 19th year on Fort Myers Beach on Oct. 27. Its goal is to rid the local waterways of monofilament fishing line and trash.
According to Rudy Busch, the executive director of KLCB, previous "Monofilament Madness" cleanups have produced enough discarded fishing line to stretch from Fort Myers to Tallahassee. Members of KLCB and the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation have been assisted by residents from Fort Myers Beach, students from Fort Myers Trail Blazers 4H club, Edison Community College and Florida Gulf Coast University as well as members of the Marine Conservation Club in Cape Coral, ECO-Action, Turtle Time and the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve.
It is hoped that through educational awareness, the people who are causing the problem will be reached and their behavior modified so that, among other reasons, wildlife will be spared agonizing deaths from entanglement in monofilament fishing line.
'The combination of Monofilament Madness and the bins have really helped awareness," said Hazell.
Volunteers used to manage the Beach stations but, due to vandalism, employees at Lee County Parks & Recreation took over and are now the main monitors.
"The volunteers said it was getting a little challenging," she said. "Our County staff is really dedicated to the environment staying clean, and they have been willing to take it on. Most of them are fishermen, so they really get it. I'm thrilled because they get monitored on a regular basis."
Hazell would still welcome dedicated volunteers to help out in the program.
"They are much appreciated," she said.
So, when you are casting for the big one, don't let the environmental impact lesson get away. Recycle that fishing line. That is a true fish story.