In general, anglers are good stewards. Because they enjoy the outdoors, they understand that it makes good sense to take care of it. This is especially true with fish care and handling.
As a group, however, we've been a little slow to address the need to properly dispose of used plastic baits and monofilament line. Fortunately, that's changing.
B.A.S.S. first started emphasizing proper disposal of baits a few years ago, and Eamon Bolten followed with the founding of a ReBaits program to recycle those baits. Today, we have Keep America Fishing's national Pitch It campaign, which encourages anglers to pitch their worn-out baits into trash cans or recycling containers.
Additionally, more states, organizations, and companies are providing recycling bins for discarded monofilament line, both in stores and at boat ramps. Florida is one of the leaders, with its Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program and more than 40 counties providing recycling bins.
"Every day, improperly discarded monofilament fishing line causes devastating problems for marine life and the environment," says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
"Marine mammals, sea turtles, fish and birds become injured from entanglements, or might ingest the line, often dying as a result. Human divers and swimmers are also at risk from entanglements and the line can also damage boat propellers.
"The Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program is a statewide effort to educate the public on the problems caused by monofilament line left in the environment, to encourage recycling through a network of line recycling bins and drop-off locations, and to conduct volunteer monofilament line cleanup events."
FWC researchers note that clumps of monofilament line are the most common foreign objects found during manatee necropsies. They also point out that birds frequenting piers and other fishing hotspots often are hooked accidentally when trying to grab bait off an angler’s line. Additionally, discarded monofilament line hanging from trees, piers, and other structures can ensnare birds. Once entangled, birds can have a difficult to impossible time flying and feeding.
“It is not uncommon to find dead pelicans entangled with fishing line and hooks,” said FWC biologist Ricardo Zambrano.
Please, properly dispose of both used baits and fishing line, and encourage others to do so as well. It's the right thing to do for fish and wildlife and the future of the sport that we love so much.