By guest blogger Capt. Don Voss, MCII
There are thousands of bridges in Florida over rivers, lagoons, bays, and estuaries. Most bridges are either equipped with fishing catwalks or have areas set aside for fishing. As a diver, it is not too hard to tell a great fishing spot based on the type and volume of debris you find underwater. Marine Cleanup Initiative, Inc. (MCII) was funded by NOAA through the 2010 Community-based Marine Debris Removal grant.
Mid-sized and large marine debris underwater can snag fishing line and gear. This often results in loss of gear and thus more marine debris. Smaller fish dart into these derelict nets and balls of fishing line for protection, sometimes at their peril. MCII divers have noticed this trend of fishing gear debris accumulated in and around areas with mid-sized to large debris items. Because of this, over the last 18 months, MCII has targeted these areas for debris removal efforts, greatly reducing these materials.
As you approach the last bridge in this area, you can see that there are two sections of the fishing catwalk missing along with 15 lamp posts, pieces of PVC piping, and other miscellaneous items. MCII’s initial underwater video captured most of those missing items as well as at least 60 feet of pedestrian guardrail and thousands of pounds of nets, fishing line, hardware, and broken pieces of boat docks and dock boxes. MCII estimates there is at least 25,000 pounds of debris to remove.
In the area, MCII has found that the north (up-current) side of any bridge is where debris typically accumulates. This debris can damages the bridges, is an entanglement hazard for the fishing industry and aquatic life, and diminishes the overall quality of the environment.