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Fishing Line Recycling Program helps protect Maui’s marine life

By Staff | Jul 23, 2020

Interactions with nearshore hook-and-line and gillnet coastal fisheries are a primary threat to sea turtles in Hawaii. Entanglement in gear can cause deep cuts that may lead to possible infections, limited movement, complete loss of a flipper or death. In an effort to decrease harmful interactions between sea turtles and discarded fishing line, the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute established the Fishing Line Recycling Program (FLRP) in June 2018. PHOTOS BY THE MAUI OCEAN CENTER MARINE INSTITUTE.

WEST MAUI – From Olowalu to Napili, our West Side shoreline has been gifted with a safer marine environment for all life with the launching of the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute’s Fishing Line Recycling Program in June 2018.

Recycling bins with instructional signage have been installed at 37 high-traffic, strategic shoreline fishing sites island-wide, and more than 20 miles of line, weights and derelict fishing gear has been collected in just over two years.

Abandoned fishing line damages coral colonies and entangles sea turtles, monk seals, manta rays and an untold number of other marine animals.

The Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute (MOCMI) seeks to prevent pollution and decrease harmful interactions between marine life and discarded fishing line through the establishment of the Fishing Line Recycling Program.

“The program provides an accessible method for fishermen to help prevent pollution and reduce entanglement hazards by properly discarding their line,” said Aleysa Martin, conservation programs coordinator for the nonprofit institute.

Fishing line recycling bins and instructional signage are now installed at 37 high-traffic shoreline fishing locations across Maui.

There are currently about ten recycling stations in West Maui, and the number is growing. They can be found at Pohaku Beach Park, Hanakao’o Beach Park, Wahikuli Wayside Park, Lahaina Harbor, Mala Boat Ramp, Olowalu Landing, Olowalu Jetty and Shark Pit.

On July 1, Napili Bay joined the list of recycling sites.

“The bin is located on the southerly beach access, attached to the fence just before entering the beach,” Tommy Cutt, MOCMI executive director, described.

“Puamana will be next,” Cutt added.

Tano Taitano is the general manager of the Napili Surf on Napili Bay. He also serves on the Napili Bay and Beach Foundation board of directors.

“This (station) is a great effort towards minimizing our negative impact on our sea life,” Taitano said, and to “continue efforts to place more of these bins towards the north end (of the bay) and other fishing locations. It’s a great step towards helping our wonderful playground.”

Taitano is hopeful. “I like to think that most of our local fisherman respect the ocean and will participate once they are aware of the bins.”

Napili resident Amy Stephens is optimistic as well. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, she swims the bay most every day.

“It’s been surprising the amount of fishing gear that I have found just in one spot. Interestingly, the second most common item I have found is elastic hair ties. With visible and convenient drop-off locations, I hope that inspires more people to clean up the reef while enjoying the ocean,” she observed.

The Lahaina News learned that fishing line is routinely collected from the recycling bins, sorted of hooks and weights, measured and recorded in the MOCMI database. The line is then shipped to the Berkley Conservation Institute, where it is melted down and made into fish habitat structures and other repurposed equipment.

According to Cutt, “to date in 2020, we have collected 5,164 feet of monofilament fishing line from West Side bins. Mala Wharf is the most used bin in West Maui.”

Additionally, “we analyze sea turtle stranding data and work with the fishing community to identify new locations for fishing line recycling bins. If readers have location suggestions, they can contact me directly at “mailto:tcutt@mocmarineinstitute.org”>tcutt@mocmarineinstitute.org.”

MOC Marine Institute is a nonprofit organization based on Maui. Its mission is to inspire lifelong environmental stewardship and ensure the survival of coral reefs and sea turtles in Hawaii through science-based conservation efforts, education and outreach.

To learn more about the MOC Marine Institute, visit www.mocmarineinstitute.org.