The Chesapeake Bay supports one of the largest nesting populations of osprey, with approximately 3,600 breeding pairs within the Bay. Ospreys are very tolerant of humans and will fish and nest close to populated communities. They line their nests with a variety of natural and manmade materials. These magnificent Chesapeake Bay icons are threatened every day by litter they mistake for natural material when making their nest. Picked up fishing line is proving to be deadly for these birds. Osprey young have been found in their nests entangled in fishing line or impaled with fishing hooks. Adults are also at risk for similar injuries. Legs, wings and beaks can become so tangled that the bird will not be able to stand, fly or eat. It is has been estimated that 5-10 percent of nests have fishing line in them. One effort that is trying to reduce the amount of littered fishing line in the environment is the MRRP, Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program.
This program is successful in other states such as Florida where they have problems with line entangling marine mammals and sea turtles. The MRRP is a nationwide effort to educate the public on the problems caused by discarded monofilament line. It aims to decrease the amount of fishing line entering the environment through a network o f recycling bins and drop-off locations, and increase the amount of monofilament line being recycled. Collected monofilament line is sent to a company called Berkley Pure Fishing in Spirit Lake, Iowa, using containers with postage paid by Berkley. Line is melted down and recycled into freshwater artificial habitats, tackle boxes, and other fishing-related items. It’s not used to make new fishing line. Other counties in Maryland already have MRRP’s in place, but Queen Anne’s county does not until now. The Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center is leading up this effort with the help of Queen Anne’s County Parks and Recreation, CBEC volunteers and students from Wye River Upper School. Courtney Leigh, Conservation Manager says that fishing line waste is a big problem in the county and sites that the clean-up effort is long overdue.
A pair of CBEC volunteers Heather and Craig Eversole, residents of Kent Island, led the charge in getting this program started. Heather and Courtney initiated the project through an internship between Anne Arundel Community College and CBEC. For her internship Heather laid the framework by researching other successful MRRP’s, determined the scope of work that needed to be accomplished and initiated contacts with the Queen Anne’s Parks and Recreation Department. Both Heather and Craig were able to collect the materials necessary to start a Pilot program with a total of 4 recycling bins located at Matapeake and Romancoke piers. With the help of students from Wye River Upper School, the installation of these bins will officially get this program started. The Eversole’s and their children have volunteered to pick up the line collected in the bins at both piers and send it away to Berkley Pure Fishing Line. This project is a great example of how community members and CBEC can work together to do positive things for the environment, says Courtney Leigh. If this pilot program is successful CBEC plans to expand the project throughout more fishing ramps and boat launch sites in the county.
However, despite the actions of these volunteers and CBEC discarded line will still threaten marine life. It’s up to every angler to take responsibility for his or her fishing line. Hooks, bait, and other debris should be removed from the line before it is placed in the recycling bins. Although only monofilament line can be recycled, anglers are still encouraged to place braided line into the bins to keep it out of the environment. Volunteers will separate it from the rest of the line.
If there’s not a monofilament bin near where you fish, take your used line to the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center in Grasonville. Keep in mind, the line must be cleaned before it will be accepted. As a last result, cut the line up into pieces smaller than 12 inches and throw it away in a garbage can with a secure lid. Line left in open garbage cans still have the potential of being blown out in the environment.
Finally, if you see another angler not recycling their line, let them know about the MRRP and encourage them to keep our waters clean.
If you know of an area that could use a monofilament bin or are interested in volunteering with the program please contact Courtney Leigh, Conservation Manager at CBEC 410-827-6695 ext. 206 or firstname.lastname@example.org