‘Reel in and Recycle’ to save marine life

Kara Grosse

Maryland Coastal Bays volunteer coordinator Kara Grosse empties monofilament from a Reel In and Recycle container on the Route 50 bridge. submitted image


It’s no secret that litter is unsightly and preventable. What most of us don’t realize is that all of that trash that we dropped and didn’t pick up, or carelessly tossed at the dumpster and missed, eventually ends up in our oceans.

Our oceans are quickly becoming dumps for our trash.

Even though our seas are huge, seemingly endless entities, they are not immune to the harmful effects of accumulated trash. This becomes apparent when we look at the “trash island” in the middle of our oceans or the constant stream of debris on our beaches.

And who, may you ask, takes the brunt force of these human-induced environmental adversities? Unfortunately, it’s the innocent fish, birds, turtles, whales, seals and porpoises that live in our seas.

Litter has many forms. One of the most detrimental forms of litter is monofilament line, better known as fishing line.

Monofilament line is typically nylon, which is composed of various kinds of polymers. These polymers are not biodegradable, meaning they will remain in the environment for hundreds of years.

Animals can become entangled and trapped in this line. It may strangle them or prevent them from swimming or flying and, consequently, hunting. It may also injure or ultimately kill the animal.­

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that the ingestion and entanglement in marine debris causes more than one million bird deaths every year and more than 100,00 annual marine mammal fatalities.

Not only does monofilament line directly kill marine life, it also has severe impacts on their habitat. It damages coral reefs, which serve as a home for thousands of fish and invertebrates. It also collects around pier and dock pilings, inhibiting the ability of certain fish and crabs to inhabit these areas.

Monofilament also frequently becomes entangled in boat props and clog pipes and sea water intakes, damaging personal property and causing boaters aggravation and money.

Maryland Coastal Bays Program is taking a giant step in minimizing this type of pollution from entering the water by setting up a “Reel in and Recycle” program in Ocean City.

This program consists of building containers and placing them at popular public fishing areas. The containers are made of PVC pipe with an opening at the top for monofilament drop-off and a screw cap on the bottom to empty the line. You may have seen these containers along the Route 50 bridge, where two have been installed already.

Not only will the fishing line collected in the containers be kept off the ground and out of the water, it will be shipped off to be recycled.

Since the two existing monofilament collection containers are working so well, MCBP is looking for donations to build more. Those who sponsor the program will be able to brand a container with their logo, as well as choose a public location for the container to reside.

MCBP is hoping to eventually have most public fishing areas equipped with a monofilament collection container.­

Unfortunately, these containers cannot empty themselves, and MCBP is looking for volunteers to shepherd the various containers. The bins only need to be emptied bi-weekly during the high season, or possibly more depending on the location.­

If you are interested in becoming a local Reel in and Recycle steward, please let us know. Keeping this fishing line out of the water and waste system is a huge step forward in saving our coastal bays, marine life and beaches.

If there is one way to show your love for the coast, it’s by keeping it clean and healthy. If you are interested in becoming a Reel in and Recycle sponsor and/or steward, email Kara at kgrosse@mdcoastalbays.org or call her at 410-213-2297, ext. 111.

Your help can go a long way.


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