by Christie Lagally
Originally published in City Living Seattle
Monofilament fishing line, used in recreational fishing, is clear, thin and extremely strong.
Unfortunately, fishing line is often carelessly discarded into lakes, streams, and along shorelines by tossing it aside or letting it go into the water. Monofilament fishing line doesn’t biodegrade for hundreds of years. It is unbreakable by hand (it requires scissors or a knife to be cut) and floats in the water.
As a result, it can become an unexpected cause of severe injury and death to those who encounter it. Local animal hospitals report having to surgically remove fishing line and hooks from companion animals. Even divers have reported monofilament related injuries.
Local resident Bonnie Anderson was all too aware of these dangers after she assisted with the rescue of an American Coot on Yellow Lake some years back. The bird had fishing line wrapped around her neck, strangling her. The other end of the line was caught on a dock preventing the Coot from swimming away.
Every moment counted for this bird as she gasped for breath. There was no time to take her to a wildlife center. Luckily, Anderson had scissors and was able to carefully cut the line from around the bird’s neck.
After that and other incidents, Anderson decided enough was enough.
She and her neighbor Barb Justice, along with other advocates in our region, decided to take up the cause to install monofilament recycling bins at every recreational fishing site in the state, including Seattle.
Anderson explains that monofilament fishing line can easily and safely be placed in a collection bin and sent to a recycling center in Burlington, Washington. The collection bins are made from PVC pipe and cost approximately $35, not including the cost of instructional decals and signage.
Other areas of the country have already enacted fishing line recycling programs, including the state of Florida. Based on this model, Anderson reached out to lawmakers in Olympia. Fifth District Senator Mark Mullet answered the call to address this serious issue.
In 2014, Sen. Mullet drafted a bill that would implement a pilot program for monofilament fishing line collection at designated state Department of Fish and Wildlife and state parks. The bill was supported by the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and Sarvey Wildlife Care Center, two organizations that see many animals injured or killed by fishing line. The Wildlife Department and other fishing organizations have also voiced their support.
After being reintroduced in the 2015 legislative session, the bill made it out of committee but didn’t make it to a floor vote before session’s end.
Undeterred by this setback, Sen. Mullet coordinated a budget proviso of $50,000 for the program via the legislative budget process. It was approved as a project for Puget Sound Conservation Corps, an environmental education and volunteer program. The Corps has since built and installed many fishing line collection bins.
Sen. Mullet said the key to the success of a program like this is to educate recreational fishermen about the need to recycle their lines.
PAWS has been hard at work doing just that for years.
“PAWS includes a tremendous amount of messaging about the dangers of beach debris,” said Melissa Moore, the organization’s education program manager. “For example, we present a series of six lessons in many fourth grade classrooms in the area [under] our ‘Kids Who Care’ program.”
Seattle City Parks was high willing to install and maintain the bins, Anderson said.
To date, collection bins have been placed at three Green Lake fishing piers, Magnuson boat ramp, Madison fishing pier, Atlantic City boat ramp and Stan Sayers fishing pier.
There are also plans to install bins at McClelland and Mount Baker fishing piers, said Dewey Potter, acting spokesperson for Seattle Parks and Recreation.
“We are happy to participate in this effort,” Potter said.
Anderson encourages anyone who sees a fishing location without a collection bin to please contact the park authority and request that a recycle bin be installed. The bins can be easily made from PVC pipe and instructions for building the bins are available on the internet along with suggested decals — an excellent project for a scout, environmental or wildlife organization, Anderson said.
Sen. Mullet agreed.
“What I like about state government is that when you do something that is logical, makes sense and works, others will follow,” he said.
“Every fishing location in the state should do this to protect wildlife, the natural environment and support public safety,” Anderson said.
For more information about PAWS, visit http://www.paws.org.
CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane, a news site providing articles, op-eds and podcasts on humane-conscious lifestyles at livinghumane.com.