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New UF Program Recycles Fishing Line To Protect Wildlife

Tom Nordlie (352) 392-1773 x 277

Maia McGuire, (904) 461-4015
Karen Anfinson, (877) 777-3850 ext. 8419
Leesa Souto, (321) 723-4547, ext. 200
Rodney Smith, (321) 77-2773
Kari Santy (321) 633-2016

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MARINELAND, Fla. — It’s strong, thin and almost invisible.

The same qualities that make nylon monofilament fishing line popular with anglers can make it deadly to wildlife that encounter lost or discarded strands, says a University of Florida expert.

But environmentally conscious anglers on Florida’s Northeast coast will find it easier to dispose of used line properly, thanks to the Monofilament Recycling Project. In November, UF researcher Maia McGuire began installing recycling stations at marine fishing spots in Nassau, Duval, St. Johns and Flagler counties.

“Manatees, marine turtles and pelicans head a long list of animals that are harmed by swallowing or getting snared in monofilament,” said McGuire, extension agent for Sea Grant, a program of coastal research and education affiliated with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “People and property are at risk, too.”

She said 100 stations should be in place by the end of 2002 at both saltwater and freshwater locations. Constructed from 3-foot sections of 6-inch diameter PVC pipe, the stations are mounted on 4-by-4-inch posts or existing structures. Decals and signs explain which items should be placed in the stations.

“We want people to deposit any unwanted or discarded monofilament line, regardless of quantity or condition,” she said. “Let’s get it out of the environment first, then worry about what’s actually recyclable.”

Developed in the 1930s, monofilament fishing line is made from a single, continuous strand of nylon. Discarded monofilament is believed to last 600 years in the marine environment.

McGuire said anglers also can use the recycling stations to deposit nylon fishing line spools, nylon rope and nylon cast nets. Tackle shops, marinas and other businesses in the four-county area have joined the effort by placing collection bins on their premises.

“Convenience really encourages people to recycle,” she said. “So we’re trying to get as many stations and bins out as possible.”

She said volunteers will empty the stations periodically and take clean monofilament and line spools to collection bins at businesses. From there the material will be shipped to Pure Fishing, a tackle company that recycles monofilament to make fish habitats.

Known as Berkley Fish Habs, the habitats are 4-foot slatted cubes that provide cover for game fish in lakes and ponds lacking natural underwater structures, said Karen Anfinson, corporate communication administrator for Pure Fishing in Spirit Lake, Iowa. The company markets fishing line under the Berkley name and owns numerous other well-known tackle brand names.

“We’ve been recycling monofilament since 1990, and so far as I know we are the only line producer doing it,” Anfinson said. “We’ve had much greater response from Florida in the last six months, so word is definitely getting out.”

Currently, Florida has the nation’s most active monofilament recycling effort, said Leesa Souto, an environmental scientist who helped start the Brevard County Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program last year.

“When we started there didn’t seem to be any other monofilament recycling programs in Florida, but now several counties have them,” said Souto, with Midwest Research Institute in Palm Bay. “The Save The Manatee Club in Monroe County has helped raise awareness about the danger monofilament poses to wildlife, and that in turn has spurred interest in recycling.”

Between 1980 and 1999, one in five manatee rescues involved monofilament entanglement, Souto said. The endangered aquatic mammals can catch their tails or flippers on submerged line and sometimes accidentally consume monofilament while feeding on plants. About 3,200 manatees live in Florida waters.

Marine turtles sometimes mistake floating tangles of monofilament for jellyfish and eat them, causing intestinal blockage, she said. Pelicans and other sea birds may fly or dive into monofilament or eat fish that have been previously hooked and still trail line.

“We surveyed Brevard County anglers and everyone had a story,” Souto said. “Some of them didn’t involve wildlife. In one incident, a powerboat snagged submerged line and all the passengers were thrown overboard. In another, a scuba diver recovering line underwater became entangled and drowned.”

Anglers also benefit from monofilament recycling efforts, said Rodney Smith, publisher of Coastal Angler magazine in Satellite Beach and a contributor to the Brevard County recycling effort.

“It’s critical that we protect Florida’s marine life,” Smith said. “Our state has the best easily accessible fishing anywhere in the world, and if we don’t look after these wonderful places, they won’t be wonderful anymore.”


NOTE: Kari Santy is not quoted in this news release, but she now leads the Brevard County monofilament recycling program, since Leesa Souto has moved to new employment.