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Anglers Urged to "Mind Your Line" as Wayward Fishing Gear Harms Wildlife

As Southwest Florida prepares for an influx of people during the winter months, a handful of conservation groups in Sanibel are encouraging visitors and locals to be mindful of what they may leave behind. They want people to be aware of the danger monofilament line and other fishing gear pose to the environment.


In 2014, conservation groups based on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva came together to create a campaign called Mind Your Line. The purpose of the campaign is to tell people how fishing line and and other fishing gear can endanger wildlife when not properly handled and disposed of.

Audrey Albrecht is a shorebird biologist and the Coastal Wildlife Manager for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. The organization is part of the Mind Your Line Initiative.

"All of our groups here on the island work to together on a lot of different things, one thing they noticed a lot of was an increase in entangled wildlife--death and injury to wildlife associated with monofilament and other fishing gear." Albrecht said. "And they wanted to put a stop to it and get some of that monofilament out of the environment."

Credit Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation
A black skimmer with a fishing lure stuck in its back.

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife in Sanibel is also part of the Mind Your Line initiative.

Shelli Albright is the Admissions and Office Manager at the wildlife clinic. She said it’s not just marine animals that are impacted by fishing gear left in the environment.

"We did get a gopher tortoise in once who had a hook going through his shell," Albright said. "The only thing you can figure is that it is in the environment somewhere and they just, as they are moving along, come across it. It does affect more than just our marine life and birds."

Albright says the clinic has seen 96 patients so far this year that have come into contact with different types of fishing gear.

"Many times they'll have a visible hook," Albright said.  "Sometimes it's a lure stuck to them in some way, other times its monofilament line that's entagled around the animal somehow."

Albrecht, of SCCF, said the impacts from monofilament in the enviornment can last a very long time.

"It  doesn’t break down for a couple of hundred years," Albrecht said. "So we want to get it out of the environment because it’s going to be there for a long time after we are—and can still be injuring wildlife years later."

Albrecht said the best way to get rid of fishing line is to place it in a monofilament recycling bin.

"It's definitely better for it to be in the trash can than in the environment, but birds can still get to it  when it gets to the landfill and can still get entangled in it later on," Albrecht said. "We definitely recommend that you put it in an appropriate monofilament recycling bin for it to be properly recycled."

Albrecht said the Mind Your Line website has information on where to find monofilament recycling bins, how to report monofilament found in the environment, as well as instructions on what to do if you accidentally hook a bird.

Credit CROW Clinic
An X-ray shows two fishing hooks inside of a sea turtle.

Andrea Perdomo is a reporter for WGCU News. She started her career in public radio as an intern for the Miami-based NPR station, WLRN. Andrea graduated from Florida International University, where she was a contributing writer for the student-run newspaper, The Panther Press, and was also a member of the university's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.
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