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Clear Your Gear launches educational program

October 26, 2016
By ASHLEY GOODMAN (agoodman@breezenewspapers.com) , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

After two years in the making, Clear Your Gear officially kicked off its educational environmental campaign Sunday, Oct. 16, at the 27th annual "Ding" Darling Days on Sanibel.

The collaborative effort is backed by City of Sanibel Natural Resources Department, CROW, J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Society, Monofilament Busters, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and the Sanibel Sea School. This is the first time all seven organizations have come together for a project.

The goal of Clear Your Gear is to educate the public on the negative impact fishing line, (monofilament) hooks and other fishing gear have on wildlife and the environment.

Dr. Heather Barron, who is the hospital director at CROW, said the idea behind Clear Your Gear is to be more proactive and solve problems that can easily be prevented rather than reactive. Over 100 animals a year who come to CROW alone die due to fishing line injuries according to Dr. Barron.

"The idea is to engage anglers and the fishing community as well as just average people about recycling monofilament line because you don't want to throw it in the trash, it's almost as bad as leaving it in the environment because then it just goes into a landfill somewhere and catches up animals, and you cannot recycle monofilament line in a regular recycling center, it has to be done in a special recycling center, so we've organized volunteers that go around to all the bins and pick all the line to take to an approved monofilament recycling center, Dr. Barron said. Our bins stay pretty full. We send someone around once a week to empty them all out."

So far, over 20 bins have been placed on the Sanibel Causeway and high-frequency fishing spots on Sanibel like Blind Pass. Clear Your Gear signage can be found near the bin which has a contact number and a QR code fishermen can scan and get information on how to safely unhook a bird. Leah Biery, ocean advocate and director of communication at the Sanibel Sea School says that since they installed the bins, over 20 miles of monofilament have been collected.

Clear Your Gear plans to extend its reach beyond Sanibel. On Oct. 29, they will partner with Keep Lee County Beautiful for its annual Monofilament Madness event.

"Since the project started, they've collected enough monofilament out of Lee County to reach from here to Tallahassee. Unfortunately, monofilament line lasts in the environment 500-600 years. So, if somebody is not taking it out of the environment, it's not going anywhere for a long time," Dr. Barron said.

Dr. Barron and the team have started keeping data so they can see if hook and line cases begin decreasing through their educational efforts. Her end goal is to see Clear Your Gear spread throughout all of Lee County.

"For us at CROW, about 85 percent of hook and line cases that we see actually come from the other side of the bridge. It's good that we are going to make an impact by doing it locally, but it really needs to spread through Southwest Florida. My eventual goal is to have no more hook and line cases," Dr. Barron said.

For more information on Clear Your Gear, or how you can volunteer, go to clearyourgear.org or call (323) 487-2837.

 
 

 

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