There is something dangerous in Florida's coastal waters. It's small, strong, and almost invisible. Marine animals, and even scuba divers, have been trapped by it and killed. The surprising culprit is nylon monofilament fishing line.
Efforts to establish fishing line recycling programs in a number of Florida's counties have led to a statewide effort to educate the public on the problems the clear or lightly colored line causes in the environment, and to encourage the creation of a network of recycling stations. It is a program, its creators say, that could easily be duplicated anywhere in the country.
"It has application in both freshwater and saltwater, and it can be done on a variety of scales, from one container to 50. Discarded fishing line is a problem everywhere," says Maia McGuire, extension agent with the Florida Sea Grant Program.
McGuire started a monofilament recycling program for fishermen on Florida's northeast coast, and is one of the partners in the statewide Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program, which has created a Web site to help others with their fishing line recycling efforts.
Brevard County created Florida's first fishing line recycling program in 2000. In the first six months of the program, over 1,000 pounds of fishing line was recycled. Using Brevard County's program as a model, McGuire began installing recycling stations in four other coastal counties in 2001.
McGuire says she began by soliciting sponsors, who paid $75 for each recycling station and in return got their name posted at the site. Once she had enough donations, she bought the materials and had the stations constructed and installed.
The stations, which resemble submarine periscopes, are constructed from three-foot sections of PVC-pipe that are mounted on posts or existing structures. They are placed at both saltwater and freshwater boat ramps and fishing piers. Signage lets people know what they can and cannot put in the containers. McGuire cautions that the stations may be used for trash if they are not placed next to garbage cans.
Volunteers empty the stations of the monofilament fishing line, spools, nylon rope, and nylon cast nets, and take the material to collection bins at local tackle shops and marinas. The bins are provided by Pure Fishing, a sporting goods manufacturer that recycles the nylon. The company even provides prepaid labels for returning the bins.
"I got a terrific response from the local communities," notes McGuire, "but also from around the state and around the country from people who said, 'We need this here. How do we do it?'"
A partnership of local, state, and federal agencies, and nonprofit organizations has been working to take the effort statewide and to educate the public about the problems nylon fishing line causes in the environment. The group pooled their resources, developed written educational material, and put together a packet with all the information necessary for creating a recycling program. All the material is now available at the Web site, www.fishinglinerecycling.org.
"Everything is there," says McGuire. "All the resources, what materials you need, where we got the signs and stickers, how much everything cost, volunteer agreements and data sheets, press releases. Anybody who wants to start a program has access to these resources and can contact any of us for further help."
The group has held three workshops around the state on how to start a program, and McGuire notes that in a survey two months later, 60 percent of the people who attended were in the process of implementing recycling programs, and many of the others plan to pursue a program in the future. Information also has been requested from as far away as Bermuda.
"I want to emphasize that people are using these stations," McGuire says. "If you make it convenient for people to do, most people are going to go ahead and use them."
For more information on Florida's Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program, point your browser to www.fishinglinerecycling.org, or contact Maia McGuire at (904) 824-4564, or email@example.com.