Recycling expands to fishing line

Published 7:09 pm Tuesday, March 22, 2016

By Susan and Biff Andrews

Mankind is rapidly trashing the oceans, lakes, rivers and swamps of the world with plastic — to the tune of 8.8 million tons per year.

Turtles think balloons are jellyfish. Ghost nets entangle whales. Locally ghost crab pots kill millions of crabs annually. Tiny nurdles — 5mm plastic balls used in industrial packing — are everywhere in the oceans.


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But the No. 1 offender is monofilament fishing line. It does not break down — ever — as do six-pack rings. It gets woven into bird nests, it strangles, it immobilizes. It is an equal-opportunity killer, especially for animals that roam the tidelines.

Think globally; act locally!

The good news is that people are waking up to the problem and dealing with it in our area. Our Virginia Master Naturalist group has just such a team. They are placing monofilament recycling bins that look like 2-foot tall candy canes made of six-inch PVC at strategic spots in Western Tidewater.

Fishermen in Suffolk and Isle of Wight can dispose of unwanted line, hooks, lures and bobbers by placing them in these depositories. The line is recycled by Berkely in Iowa.

Recycling stations have been placed at Lone Star Lakes, Sleepy Hole Park and Bennett’s Creek Park, and more will be added at Windsor Castle Park in Smithfield and at the new Sleepy Hole Park kayak launch.

Our VMN chapter is acting in concert with BoatUS in Annapolis. Cheryl Lee and her team empty the depositories monthly. Other organizations are placing bins elsewhere in Tidewater. Use them.

On a personal note, I looked out at my dock one day when living in Isle of Wight to see an osprey with a hook in its wing which was then entangled in the trailing line. Being a caring bird lover — even before there were Master Naturalists — I threw a cast net over it, wrestled it into a large dog crate (without losing any fingers to beak or talon), and then rushed it to the local bird rescue experts, who thanked me profusely.

Two days later, not having heard any news, I called to find the status of my grand rescue. They basically said, “Oh, it was too deep; the wing was immobilized too long. We put it down.” Nice guys, and thanks for telling me.

What a beautiful bird that was, even in a distressed state in a dog cage.

Recycle your line at a depository. Pick up balloons and line if you see them at the water’s edge. Make it a habit to leave any natural place a cleaner space than you found it.

Your grandchildren could face a world without ospreys.

And by the way, they’re back.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at