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News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462

For Release: August 4, 2003
Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402
Stephanie Powell 222-4700 ext. 4418

DEM ASKS ANGLERS TO TAKE CARE IN DISPOSING OF MONOFILAMENT LINE AND OTHER DANGERS TO WILDIFE

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife is asking all anglers to keep fishing areas free of debris and fishing line, and to take particular care in disposing of monofilament fishing line. Ospreys and gulls, as well as other birds, collect line for nesting material, causing hazards for their young and themselves.

Monofilament fishing line is by far the most dangerous debris item encountered by wildlife, according to Lori Gibson, supervising wildlife biologist at DEM. She notes that statistics from the Center for Marine Conservation show that monofilament fishing line has been the single most prevalent debris item in entanglements since 1988, accounting for more than 36 percent of total incidents. Within the last week alone in Rhode Island, Gibson continued, a cormorant with monofilament line and a hook and a robin with monofilament line were spotted by DEM staff, who were successful in untangling the robin, but could not reach the cormorant.

The prevalence of monofilament fishing line can be seen, Gibson says, in osprey nests throughout Rhode Island. Most, she says, contain monofilament and/or plastic that has been scavenged, and the birds can easily be entangled in it. Gibson remembers one incident years ago when an osprey became trapped in a piece of plastic woven fabric at its nest on a tower at Quonset Point State Airport. "Luckily," she says, "after several hours, the osprey was captured, the plastic removed, and the osprey released without serious injury. Unfortunately, it is a rare success story as most often wildlife cannot be captured alive or cannot survive the injuries they sustain from the entanglements."

Fortunately, fishing line can be recycled, says Christine Dudley, supervising wildlife biologist and aquatic education specialist at DEM. Anglers can deposit used line in small brown drop boxes that are attached to posts or trees at a number of state fishing areas. The drop boxes, constructed by Eagle Scouts, provide a safe repository for the used monofilament line, which is then collected by DEM staff to be sent to a fishing tackle manufacturer for recycling. Recycled monofilament line can be turned into such things as polyester yarn for carpet, filler for clothing and packaging, artificial fish habitats, tackle boxes, and other plastic fishing-related products. There are currently drop boxes at about a quarter of the state's 80 fishing sites.

If it is impossible to recycle the line, Dudley says, it should be cut into strands about six inches long before it is deposited in the angler's home trash, just as one should cut up plastic six-pack rings, which are also a danger to wildlife.

Although monofilament line is the greatest hazard, hooks, lures and weights are often left behind at fishing sites and consumed by fish and wildlife, causing serious injury or illness, according to Gibson. And although many anglers and some fishing groups, such as RI B.A.S.S. Federation, Trout Unlimited, and the RI Saltwater Anglers Association have pointedly addressed litter cleanup in their bylaws and/or public actions, evidence at most fishing sites shows that there is much more to be done. Gibson's advice to all anglers: "Help protect wildlife and keep your favorite fishing area clean by recycling your line and disposing of your trash. And, if you spot some that others have abandoned, properly dispose of that, too. It's the responsible thing to do."

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