Volunteers clean up fishing line litter that can kill birds
Leah Palmer and Dylan Quinn, students from Sarasota High School, pick fishing line out of mangrove islands Saturday in Roberts Bay for the Sarasota Bay Watch's Annual Fishing Line Cleanup Day.
Staff photo / Shannon McFarland
By Shannon McFarland
Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 10:41 p.m.
SARASOTA COUNTY - The isolated mangrove islands in Roberts Bay are normally left alone, free from people and other animals that would disturb the host of nesting seabirds.
But in the fall, between nesting seasons, the Sarasota Bay Watch and other volunteers venture along the edge of the mangroves, searching for a nearly invisible threat to the birds fishing line.
Equipped with gloves, scissors, trash bags and long PVC pipes with hooks at the end, the volunteers split up into groups to hunt for the deadly lines that can tangle the birds in trees and kill them.
Lee Fox, the founder of Save Our Seabirds, says that hundreds of birds are killed every year. She took a rescued pelican to show volunteers what to do if they found a live entangled bird.
About 70 people helped hunt for the fishing line, including volunteers from the Sarasota Audubon Society and a high school marine biology class.
They split into groups to clean up 23 areas, focusing on the trees and rookeries.
Kayakers checked the mangrove tunnels. Power boats traveled to remote rookeries. One larger boat ferried a group of students to several small islands, where they walked through waist-deep water along the edges of the mangroves looking for fishing line, which takes 600 years to naturally decompose in the ocean, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Ocean Conservancy.
"We really want fishermen to be more careful," said Ann Paul, a member of the Sarasota Audubon Society, as she waded in Roberts Bay.
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