A network of agencies, including the Beach Patrol, deal with a number of environmental hazards including underwater obstructions, petroleum products, bacteria, and containers full of toxic material. But one of the most critical to wildlife is monofilament- a single-strand, strong, flexible plastic that is clear or tinted blue, pink or green.
John O’Connel runs the recovery and recycle program for A&M/Sea Grant and maintains a website full of useful information about monofilament at https://mrrp.tamu.edu/. According to the website most monofilament is non-biodegradable — it lasts about 600 years. Because it is thin and often clear, it is difficult for birds and other animals to see and they can easily brush up against it and become entangled. Once entangled, they may become injured, drown, or starve to death. Many animals also ingest fishing line.
Monofilament is recycled when it is collected from recycling bins and cleaned of hooks, leaders, weights and trash by volunteers. It is then shipped to a place that melts it down and made into other plastic products, including tackle boxes, spools for line, fish habitats and toys. It is not made into more monofilament line. You can recycle the line by depositing it in to cardboard recycling boxes that can be found in some tackle shops, or deposit it in an outdoor monofilament recycling container. If you choose to throw it in the trash make sure you cut the line into short lengths (less than six inches), because once it goes to the landfill it can be scavenged there by animals trying to use it to build nests or eat it.
If you see a marine mammal or turtle entangled, contact the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-800-9-MAMMAL. All marine mammals and sea turtles should only be handled by qualified personnel. For other entangled wildlife, go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/rehab/list to locate a wildlife rehabilitator. If you see a bird entangled, you may be able to free it yourself by first throwing a blanket or towel over the bird’s head to limit their eyesight, being careful not to entangle it in the fabric.
You can’t really talk about efforts to increase the amount of monofilament line that’s collected locally without mentioning Joanie Steinhaus, Associate Campaign Director, Gulf Coast Turtle Island Restoration Network. She’s involved with many projects, one of which involves educating local fishermen and placing collection tubes on Boddeker Road, Sea Wolf Park, both fishing piers and some sites on the west end. Surfrider Galveston also maintains tubes on four of the jetties and Joanie is always trying to recruit more volunteers for placement and maintenance of the tubes.
She is working with John O’Connel to raise funds for addition signs and stickers for the tubes, and with multiple agencies and other NGOs to raise awareness and recruit volunteers.
If you are interested in helping by maintaining a collection tube, putting up a collection box, or helping with outreach give her a call at 409-795-8426 or e-mail her at email@example.com.
We all appreciate all the good work being done by Joanie, John, and all the volunteers!