Guest Blogger: Sean Russell, founder and director of the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project.
Monofilament fishing line, when improperly disposed of, poses a serious threat to our coastal wildlife. Fishing line, made of thin, hard-to-see plastic, is difficult to break, lasts a long time in the environment and can entangle dolphins, sea turtles, manatees, and birds. Many states have implemented fishing line recycling programs because of the wildlife entanglements caused by monofilament fishing line. Recycling bins are placed on fishing piers and at marinas to provide anglers a safe place to recycle their used fishing line. The line is periodically collected from the bins by volunteers and sent to recycling facilities that can turn the line into fish habitat structures and plastic products.
These programs provide a simple solution to the problem of recycling fishing line when anglers are near an appropriate shore-side receptacle. However, people fishing from boats or kayaks, or those fishing in remote locations, still need a place to safely store their used fishing line until they are able to reach a recycling bin.
The Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project is a youth-driven marine debris prevention and ocean conservation program launched in 2008 to address this issue. This project engages youth in the assembly and distribution of personal-sized fishing line recycling containers. These containers, created by a researcher at Mote Marine Laboratory, are made from repurposed tennis ball tubes and provide anglers with a place to safely store their used fishing line, keeping it out of the environment and away from marine life, until they can properly recycle it.
The personal recycling bin provides anglers with a conservation tool they need to help prevent fishing line from entering marine and aquatic ecosystems, and also serves as an educational outreach tool to help raise awareness about the importance of this issue. Through the project, young people involved in youth organizations, school groups, zoo and aquarium summer camps, as well as environmental conservation volunteer programs with non-profit organizations and government agencies are learning about fishing line entanglement and are empowered to address this issue by assembling and distributing the recycling bins. To date, youth and adult volunteers across Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, California, and Alaska have worked on this project, helping to assemble and distribute over 12,000 personal-sized fishing line recycling bins.
The Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project provides educational resources on marine debris prevention free to students and educators interested in raising awareness about this topic in their community.
If you’d like to become involved in the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project, and support their efforts, like the project on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stowitdontthrowit, or follow on Twitter @stowdontthrow! Additionally, students can participate in the annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, an event designed to train students how to launch their own ocean conservation projects and give them the skills necessary to make these projects successful.