When nylon was created in 1938, few people realized the impact this new material would have on fishing. By the late 1950s, manufacturers were producing a single strand of monofilament plastic that would quickly become the most popular fishing line.
Unfortunately, the very properties that make monofilament line so beneficial for fishermen – durability, strength, clarity – can make it an environmental hazard.
Birds, fish and mammals are routinely tangled in discarded fishing line, which can injure or kill them. Derelict fishing line also puts people at risk, entangling beachgoers and divers and damaging boats or other equipment.
Proper disposal of old or damaged fishing line is vital to prevent these dangers. North Carolina Big Sweep’s (NC Big Sweep) monofilament fishing line recycling program encourages fishermen, boaters and marinas to recycle fishing line before it enters the environment.
“Recycling gives a second life to monofilament line, reduces problems with litter and earns positive publicity,” explains Judy Bolin, president of NC Big Sweep.
The NC Big Sweep monofilament recycling initiative began as a pilot project in 2004 with funding from the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Working with the North Carolina Clean Marina Program – a voluntary program that recognizes environmentally responsible marinas – Bolin serves as a conduit between marinas and monofilament recycling resources.
“The marinas are the ones who commit to recycle the monofilament line,” she says.
To participate, marinas must install special containers for patrons to safely store and discard unwanted fishing line. Marina staff monitor and maintain the containers and record the amount of fishing line being recycled. Bolin provides marina operators with an initial container and contact information for recycling centers.
Southport Marina joined the NC Big Sweep program in 2012. For marina manager Hank Whitley, the decision was easy. “As a certified Clean Marina, we are committed to doing our part to keep our environment clean and litter-free,” he explains.
Southport currently has three recycling containers and has collected a large amount of fishing line. With little to no maintenance and only weekly monitoring required, Whitley is pleased that the stations have been minimally invasive to marina operations.
“There is no logical reason for a marina not to join this program,” he states. “The benefits far outweigh the negatives.”
More than 100 marinas currently participate in the recycling program; Bolin would like to see that number grow. “Ideally, I would love to have all marinas involved,” she says. “For now, I’d like to get funding to add 50 more marinas to the project.”
Monofilament recycling is only one of many good boating practices boaters and marinas can implement. Ocean Conservancy’s Good Mate program provides simple, easy-to-follow guidelines for green boating. Visit www.oceanconservancy.org/goodmate for more information.