Michigan Sea Grant Extension and Earth Week 2013 – focus on Marine Debris
Michigan Sea Grant Extension is working to reduce marine debris in the Great Lakes, and you can too!
April 23, 2013 - Author: Steve Stewart, Michigan State University Extension
In the Great Lakes, marine debris affects the beauty of our environment, is a health and safety hazard, threatens our wildlife and natural resources, and comes at an economic cost. From a beach covered in trash to an animal entangled in fishing line, marine debris is a problem we cannot ignore.
Marine debris is considered any manufactured or processed solid material that makes its way into the aquatic or Great Lakes environment. Marine debris enters the environment through various means, like being disposed of or abandoned directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally. Debris in the Great Lakes ranges from small trash and litter items to large abandoned and derelict vessels.
One debris type that is common is derelict fishing gear (DFG). DFG refers to nets, lines, and other recreational or commercial fishing equipment that has been lost, abandoned, or discarded in the environment. DFG not only affects the environment and wildlife, but impacts navigation safety and the fishing community economy. An example of DFG currently found in the Great Lakes is monofilament fishing line. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has partnered with the BoatUS Foundation, nationally, to provide monofilament recycling bins at popular fishing spots around the Great Lakes. Michigan Sea Grant Extension is a local sponsor of BoatUS Foundation’s “Reel In and Recycle!” campaign to recycle monofilament here in the Great Lakes.
Why recycle monofilament? It is strong, thin, durable, and nearly invisible, and because monofilament is widely used by anglers. Those same qualities can make it extremely hazardous to wildlife when left behind. Inappropriately discarded monofilament often accumulates in popular fishing areas and may tangle around boat propellers and aquatic life, while taking over 500 years to decompose! This poses threats to anglers, the fish they catch and important fish habitat and breeding grounds. Abandoned line can “ghost fish” by continuing to catch aquatic species (e.g., fish, turtles and birds) in makeshift nets for many years.
The monofilament recycling program was designed to make proper disposal of monofilament easy and more accessible by creating a network of monofilament recycling collectors. Michigan Sea Grant Extension has distributed more than 90 monofilament recycling bins and related educational materials to marinas, camps, and boating access sites across the state.
Monofilament recycling bins are receptacles for unwanted fishing line. They are typically constructed of PVC pipe and are best located at popular fishing areas. If you would like to see your favorite fishing spot equipped with one of these bins, you can ask your local land manager to install and maintain a bin.
The BoatUS Foundation supplied the initial inventory of bins. Moving forward, Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension encourage everyone interested in the program to build their own bins. It’s something anyone can do during Earth Week, or any week.