THE TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE

Monofilament collection bins have been placed in several locations along the Emerald Coast, boasting colorful designs by local artists.

Monofilament collection bins have been placed in several locations along the Emerald Coast, boasting colorful designs by local artists.

Monofilament recycling program in its fifth year

BY ERIKA ZAMBELLO

Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance

My husband and I pull up to the boat ramp at Ross Marler Park. Located on Okaloosa Island – between bustling Fort Walton Beach and Destin – the park provides a quiet oasis on the Choctawhatchee Bay for families to grill, relax, and swim. While the sandy shorelines looked inviting, the pull of the waves (and the fish underneath) called us to open water.

As we backed the boat down the ramp, I spotted a colorfully painted receptacle, standing close enough that fishermen and women could easily reach its open face. Across the Choctawhatchee Bay, fishing line recyclers just like this one help anglers reduce pollution and keep our waterways clean.

Installed by the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance – a local nonprofit committed to improving swimmable, fishable waterways for future generations – the recyclers are located in Ross Marler and Veterans Park, along the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier and Destin Harbor, at the Bluewater Bay Marina and Nick’s Seafood Restaurant, as well as Cessna and Thomas Pilcher Parks in Walton County. Decorated by local artists Annette Taunton, Joan Vienot, and Lori Ceier, they feature native species and whimsical mermaids to draw attention to their important function. 

Origin story

Launched on Earth Day, April 22, 2014, CBA’s Monofilament Recycling Program began as a class project for the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2013-14 Destin FORWARD class. Each year, the group is tasked to come up with a positive impact on the Destin community. Understanding the economic ties Destin has to its waterways as a vacation/fishing destination, the 2013-14 group knew establishing a monofilament recycling program would benefit the health and sustainability of local waterways.

The painted fishing line recyclers are simple to use. Anglers simply deposit their unwanted fishing line of any length into the end of the painted PVC recycler. Each month, volunteers collect the line and CBA ships the monofilament to a recycling center, where it is repurposed into new products. 

Marine menace

When accidentally left in the water, fishing line wreaks havoc. According to The National Audubon Society, “biologists reported that line kills more pelicans than any other hazard” in Florida, while “in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, an estimated 5 to 10 percent of osprey nests are lined with the material. Derelict line, which takes hundreds of years to biodegrade, likewise menaces marine mammals and sea turtles.”

Fishing line is a hazard to more than wildlife. The nearly invisible monofilament can become tangled in diving gear and wrap around propellers. 

“By providing an easy way to safely dispose of fishing line,” explains Alison McDowell, CBA director, “we can all do our part to keep the Choctawhatchee Bay, East Pass, and Gulf of Mexico healthy.”

Are you interested in becoming a monofilament volunteer or in sponsoring a beautiful fishing line recycler in your neighborhood? Contact me at zambelle@nwfsc.edu or go to the CBA website basinalliance.org for more information.