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#06-115 May 1, 2006

New DNR monofilament recycling program helps waterways, wildlife

In an effort to heighten awareness of the detrimental side effects of marine debris, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources is implementing a Monofilament Recycling Program in coastal South Carolina.

Monofilament, commonly termed single-strand fishing line, is a flexible plastic that is harmful to wildlife and a nuisance for boaters. The S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) program is designed to provide an outlet for recreational anglers, boaters, and the general public to recycle, rather than neglect, used fishing line. According to Jeff Mollenhauer, DNR’s Saltwater License Program coordinator, “By placing used fishing line into monofilament recycling bins, it will no longer pose a threat to and pollute our waterways, and will instead be recycled into reusable plastic products.”

For more information and to volunteer to support the Monofilament Recycling Program, contact DNR program coordinators Mollenhauer, mollenhauerj@dnr.sc.gov, (843) 953-9809 in Charleston, or Sara Tuttle, tuttles@dnr.sc.gov, (843) 953-9354, and check out http://saltwaterfishing.sc.gov/.

Outdoor monofilament recycling bins, constructed of plastic culvert pipe, are ideal sources for holding used fishing line. An important goal of the program is to create numerous partnerships with groups that will help with the installation and maintenance of these outdoor recycling bins. Currently, North Inlet Winyah Bay Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve, Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto (ACE) Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve, Keep Georgetown Beautiful, Edisto Beach State Park, and the South Carolina Aquarium have joined efforts with the DNR program to help with the maintenance and management of the bins.

Mollenhauer said: “The importance of partnerships to the success of the Monofilament Recycling Program is paramount. We are thankful for the support we have generated with these groups, and are optimistic that additional support within the coastal community will be established.” Bins can be found on fishing piers, near public boat landings, and around popular destination areas for anglers.

Partnerships also exist with vendors maintaining indoor recycling bins. Local Charleston business Barton and Burwell manages a monofilament bin and supports the recycling initiative.

Monofilament is collected from the bins and sent in pre-paid boxes to Berkeley®, a major manufacturer of fishing line. Berkeley® melts the line into reusable plastic pellets which are then used to create tackle boxes, spools for fishing line, artificial fish habitats, and other plastic products. Since 1990, this company has recycled more than seven million miles of monofilament. 

The urgency and importance of recycling monofilament has already been documented. Previous research in Florida has determined that between 1995 and 2000, about 35 dolphins in the Southeast have been fatally wounded from monofilament related injuries. The Florida Marine Research Institute documented over the course of four years 163 sea turtles entangled in monofilament. During the same study, more than 250 seabirds were rescued from hook and fishing line entanglements.

Funding for the Monofilament Recycling Program is made possible in part by the South Carolina Saltwater Recreational Fishing License Program. Anglers who purchase an annual saltwater recreational fishing license support activities such as the stocking of important fish species in the wild, the restoration of the state’s shellfish resources, improving fishing opportunities through construction and maintenance of artificial reefs, furthering research initiatives, promoting a strong conservation ethic through the distribution of information, and conducting educational programs for students, teachers, and the general public. 

Support is also provided from the ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve. The ACE Basin represents one of the East coast’s largest underdeveloped estuaries, with 350,000 acres of protected land. The ACE Basin Project was established in 1988, and was designated as part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve in 1992. The National Estuarine Research Reserve system is a network of protected areas established for long-term research, education and stewardship. This partnership program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the coastal states protects more than one million acres of estuarine land and water, which provides essential habitat for wildlife; offers educational opportunities for students, teachers and the public; and serves as living laboratories for scientists.

- Written by Anna Martin -
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