As Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I get to see the great conservation works the Service and its partners are doing. But I don't get to participate in the actual work as much as I would like. Well, last week was different.
I got to roll up my sleeves, get my hands dirty and help one of our longtime partner organizations, BoatUS (Boat Owners Association of The United States), as well as a fellow federal resource management agency, NOAA. We built 600 fishing line recycling bins. The bins will be distributed nationwide by BoatUS to local organizations like fishing clubs and Scout troops. They will allow anglers to easily and safely dispose of their unneeded fishing line.
The fishing line recycling program is a success story that needs to be told. Safe disposal of discarded monofilament fishing line is important to our environment. It helps prevent entanglement of fish and ensure a quality fishing experience by helping to keep shorelines clear of litter.
The BoatUS Foundation program is patterned after a similar effort started by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The Florida program was such a success that BoatUS proposed expanding the program nationally and received funding to do so in 2007 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and NOAA's Marine Debris Program. Since then, BoatUS and its partners have built and distributed nearly 2,000 fishing line recycling bins. The federal grant funds are matched at least 1:1 by BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water funds, nearly all of which come from individual donations from BoatUS members.
BoatUS conservatively estimates that nearly 5,000 miles of fishing line has been safely disposed of and recycled through their program. That is quite an accomplishment.
A strong network of volunteers and official partners assists in every phase of the program and the success of BoatUS' program has not gone unnoticed. Additional sponsors have contributed resources through the years, including the Brunswick Public Foundation, Berkley Conservation and West Marine.
Director Dan Ashe (rear, center) joins staff from BoatUS and the Service, plus a host of volunteers. USFWS photo
So it was a privilege for me to join in with other Fish and Wildlife Service employees, as well as volunteers from NOAA, National Marine Manufacturers Association, American Sportfishing Association, and Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, and of course, BoatUS and the BoatUS Foundation to make a difference for our environment.
Together, we all made a difference today. And thanks to BoatUS and BoatUS Foundation for letting me get my hands dirty and letting me reconnect with my roots in marine biology.