New program tackles local fishing litter

New program tackles local fishing litter

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Fish responsibly.

Susan Dubois, director of the North Smithfield Public Library, left, and Bonnie Combs, marketing director of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, install a monofilament fishing line recycling station along the Branch River behind the library last Friday. (Breeze photo by Charles Lawrence)

Susan Dubois, director of the North Smithfield Public Library, left, and Bonnie Combs, marketing director of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, install a monofilament fishing line recycling station along the Branch River behind the library last Friday. (Breeze photo by Charles Lawrence)

It’s a simple request from Bonnie Combs, marketing director for the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, who’s on a mission to stop fishing litter by providing people with easy access to recycling containers.

From Providence up through Worcester, Mass., Combs is asking people who fish to “please be mindful of the environment” and don’t leave behind trash and recycling when they’re out enjoying the area’s natural resources this summer.

Most fishing areas have a “carry in, carry out” trash policy, but Combs has noticed people leaving litter at the sites rather than taking it with them when they leave. She’s picked up plenty of bobbers, fishing line, bait containers, and lure packaging, she said.

Made from plastic, monofilament fishing lines cause environmental hazards and can entangle and kill fish, birds, and marine life. They can also pose a danger to swimmers and divers.

Monofilament fishing line takes up to 600 years to decompose, according to the website for the “Stow It Don’t Throw It Project,” a marine debris prevention and ocean conservation program.


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Combs found the website after she began researching ways to tackle fishing litter.

April 9 marked opening day for the freshwater fishing season in Rhode Island, and there are approximately 175,000 recreational anglers, ages 16 and older, in the state, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Among the places people can fish locally are the Blackstone River, the Woonasquatucket River, the Chepachet River, and the Ponaganset River, as well as many streams and ponds including Upper Rochambeau Pond in Lincoln, Tarkin Pond in North Smithfield, Dexter Pond in Scituate, and Slater Park Pond in Pawtucket.

A responsible fishing program is a natural extension of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor’s “Trash Responsibly” program, Combs said.

As part of the “Fish Responsibly” initiative, Combs has been repurposing and handing out empty tennis ball cans that people can place used fishing line in until they dispose of it in a recycling bin, an idea from the “Stow It Don’t Throw It Project.”

Fore Court Racquet and Fitness Club in Cumberland has helped supply Combs with empty tennis ball cans for the project, she said.

Also part of the initiative is installing monofilament-recycling stations, made of PVC pipe, at fishing sites in the Blackstone Valley area.

Just last Friday, Combs was at the North Smithfield Public Library installing a monofilament-recycling station near the Branch River, located behind the library.

A few other stations have been set up in the area, including behind the Blackstone River Watershed Council’s environmental center in Lincoln and at Hopedale Pond in Hopedale, Mass.

Since announcing her project in April, Combs has traveled to local fishing derbies and handed out the tennis ball canisters. She’s also talked with students in an after-school program in Pawtucket about the initiative and given them cans to take home to family members who fish.

So far she’s received positive feedback and has worked with local businesses and organizations to offer recycling bins for fishing line, she said.

“It’s just been a really cool experience,” she said.

Local places collecting used fishing line for recycling include The Audubon Society of Rhode Island in Smithfield, Big Bear Hunting and Firearms in Glocester, Pete’s Bait & Tackle in Woonsocket, the Blackstone Heritage Corridor office, Ocean State Tackle in Providence, Fin & Feather Sports in Upton, Mass., and Barry’s Bait & Tackle in Worcester.

According to the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, fishing line cannot be placed in the regular recycling bins. RIRRC advises it be placed in trash bins. Turning it in to one of the special recycling programs is the most environmentally responsible solution.

Iowa-based Berkley Fishing, the creator of Trilene fishing line, has a recycling program that repurposes monofilament line and empty spools, Combs said. She contacted the company about its program and was sent four cardboard box recycling units that can be mailed back to the company once they are filled.

The idea for the project came to Combs while on one of her regular litter-picking walks. She frequents Lincoln Woods State Park in Lincoln, Stump Pond in Smithfield, and Hopedale Pond in Hopedale, Mass., she said.

“After a while, it became apparent to me how much of the litter was left behind from people fishing,” she said.

“Why are you littering the resource you’re coming to enjoy?” she asks.

For more information or to help with the project, contact Combs atbcombs@blackstoneheritagecorridor.org .


Courtesy of The Valley Breeze

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