National Wildlife Refuge System

Monofilament Busters

Credit: USFWS

Every Friday, teams of volunteers take to the waters of J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida to remove the nearly invisible monofilament fishing line that can be deadly to birds and marine life.


In the winter, more than 40 volunteers show up each week. In the summer, a steady crew of six hits the kayaks weekly. In 2010, the crews brought in a five gallon bucket of monofilament.  And on a single day, here’s everything else that was hauled in:


Caption: One day's catch by the Monofilament Busters
Credit: USFWS

1  Styrofoam cooler lid
1  Styrofoam cup
1  plastic boat toy
3  plastic bags
3  large plastic covers
2  deflated and soggy helium balloons with ribbon and string
1  small bucket
1  tea bag
3  bobbers
4  lead weights
2  fancy hooks
1  lure
3  rubber lures
9  hooks


The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, the Friends organization for the refuge, purchased new kayaks for these Monofilament Busters in 2010. The Society also provided new “boat hooks – they get beat up and these float, which is a huge asset – and scissors made for cutting line. We each wear a pair around our neck,” says team leader and Wildlife Society board member Doris Hardy. Many of those who climb into the kayaks also volunteer behind the desk or cash register at the refuge. 

Caption: Roseate spoonbill and snowy egret tangled in fishing line
Credit: USFWS
“Fishing is encouraged at the refuge, but we need to teach our children and other fishermen how to fish responsibly,” says Toni Westland, supervisory refuge ranger.
More than 120 birds and animals are treated each year on the refuge for injuries caused by fishing line and hooks in the trees and water. “Alligators, raccoons, manatees and birds,” says Westland, enumerating the casualties, “any animal that utilizes the water in the estuary.”

“This is a much needed program that saves the refuge considerable time and expense,” said refuge ranger Jeff Combs. “The volunteers are saving countless wildlife from a horrible death.”

Refuge staff have also set up nine monofilament stations along Wildlife Drive on the refuge, providing tubes for proper disposal as well as educational displays. Visitors are asked to call 472-1100 x 266 if they find any fishing tackle tangled in trees or water. Westland says there are about five calls a week – messages collected by student interns, sites checked out by the Monofilament Busters.

Last updated: May 13, 2011