Of all the forms of trash that humans let collect in the ocean, monofilament fishing line is among the most insidious. According to a relatively recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pamphlet called “Reeling in Marine Debris,” old fishing line can “collect under water on pier pilings, posing a threat to animals that swim in and around them. This abandoned line can ghost fish–continue to catch marine species–for many years. Fishing line, nets, rope and other debris can also wrap around boat propellers and clog seawater intakes, causing costly engine damage and becoming a safety hazard.” What’s more, that same NOAA pamphlet states that a 1998 study of Hawaii waters indicates that fishing line debris “caused significant damage to cauliflower coral colonies,which provide important habitat for fish and invertebrates.”
There is no single solution to dealing with such debris, which makes up a significant portion of the trash we find on local beaches. Lauren Campbell, conservation manager for the Pacific Whale Foundation, understands this very well.
“Fishing line is nearly invisible, and as a plastic, never degrades in the environment,” she said in an Aug. 12 PWF press release. “It can last for hundreds of years and is responsible for entangling wildlife such as sea turtles, monk seals, sea birds and corals.”
With PWF naturalist Mike Donohue and intern Emily Walker, the three helped develop special fishing line recycling bins. Then they had to figure out where to place them.
“The three worst spots were Mala Wharf, the rock wall fronting Ma’alaea Harbor and Kahului Harbor,” Campbell said in the press release. “In my first sweep of Ma’alaea, I collected over 200 feet of line. Three months later I went back and again collected another 100 feet.”
Once they place the bins (there is currently just one, at Kahului Harbor), volunteers will send off whatever line is collected to the Berkley Pure Fishing Co. in Iowa, which recycles the line into tackle boxes, toys and other plastic items. According to Pacific Whale Foundation, Berkley has so far collected 9 million miles worth of fishing line from around the nation.
Residents can also take their old fishing line to New Maui Fishing Supply and Maui Sporting Goods in Wailuku, West Maui Sports and Fishing Supply in Lahaina and Hooked Up Fishing Supply in Kihei. For more information, call PWF’s Conservation Department at 808-856-8304 or email them at email@example.com.