Posted on: August 9, 2013

Pacific Whale Foundation Helps Launch Maui Fishing Line Recycling Program

One thing that Lauren Campbell knows is trash. As Pacific Whale Foundation’s Conservation Manager, and longtime environmental activist on both the Mainland and Maui, Campbell has led her fair share of beach cleanups.
 In the past year, Campbell has also partnered with NOAA’s marine debris monitoring program. While monitoring focuses mainly on tracking and understanding the movement of debris from the 2011 Japan tsunami, Campbell has found it opening her eyes to other marine debris issues.
“The research I conduct through PWF’s conservation program attempts to answer one main question: where is the trash on Maui beaches coming from?  It might seem simple, but different types of trash tell a different type of story," she says. " If we understand the source of beach trash (e.g. runoff from upstream sources, daily beachgoers, or marine or tsunami based), then we can formulate more effective management actions.”
While plastics and cigarette butts continually take top honors as the most numerous debris items, Campbell notes that every weekly survey also yields discarded fishing line.
Fishing line, known as monofilament line, is made by melting and mixing plastic polymers. Particularly known for its strength and durability, the qualities that make fishing line so appealing to fishers also spell trouble for marine life.
“Fishing line is nearly invisible, and as a plastic, never degrades in the environment.  It can last for hundreds of years and is responsible for entangling wildlife such as sea turtles, monk seals, sea birds and corals,” notes Campbell.
Around the same time that Campbell began her debris monitoring, she was approached by like-minded Pacific Whale Foundation Naturalist Mike Donohue and Research Intern Emily Walker. The two brought the concept of fishing line recycling bins to Campbell’s attention.
Their idea was simple: create outdoor, weather resistant receptacles where fishers can discard broken or unused line. Receptacles are maintained by volunteers who empty the bins and collect the line. Collected line is then shipped to Berkley Pure Fishing Company in Iowa, where it is melted down into raw plastic pellets and made into plastic products such as tackle boxes, spools for line, fish habitats and toys.  
To date, Berkley’s nation-wide program has been responsible for recycling 9 million miles worth of fishing line, enough to fill two reels for every angler in America.   
In Campbell’s eyes, the bins are the perfect, community-based solution.  “Bins are a voluntary program that places the responsibility with fishers to properly dispose of their line, as well as beach goers who find the line.”
Fishing line recycling programs have proven highly successful in coastal states such as Florida, where fishing is a way of life. Launched in 1999, Florida’s program is a model of success, and it is now commonplace to see recycling receptacles at many of the state’s piers, jetties and beach parks.  

But even before receptacles could be built and installed on Maui, Campbell first had to evaluate the extent of the problem. To ensure that receptacles were the proper course of action, she trekked to specific areas to see how big of a threat, if any, discarded fishing line posed. 
 “As the original permit from DBOR limited installation of receptacles to Maui’s small boat harbors, those were the spots where I began," says Campbell. "The three worst spots were Mala Wharf, the rock wall fronting Ma’alaea Harbor and Kahului Harbor. In my first sweep of Ma’alaea, I collected over 200 feet of line. Three months later I went back and again collected another 100 feet.”
With these numbers in mind, Campbell’s next stop was Maui’s fishing supply stores, all of whom were incredibly receptive to the program and already recycling line themselves.
“The majority of recycled line comes from anglers re-spooling, so fishing supply stores end up collecting a lot of line that would otherwise end up in the landfill or on our reefs,” says Campbell.  
Every shop owner showed interest in the project and couldn’t wait to give advice on the best locations to place the bins.
“I can build and install recycling receptacles, but I rely on the local anglers’ advice, expertise and interfacing with the fishing community," Campbell says. "These guys know the ocean around Maui better than anyone and depend on healthy reefs for their livelihood; they’ve provided nothing but support.”  

The first receptacle was installed at Kahului Harbor just a few weeks ago, with additional 
ones slated for Ma’alaea Harbor. Campbell then hopes to expand the program to popular beach parks and other “hot-spot” fishing locations.  
Pacific Whale Foundation's staff wrote, designed and printed information rack cards about the program, which were made available to the fishing stores. The team also created the stickers for the receptacles. 
Pacific Whale Foundation Members and supporters helped fund this project to keep plastic line out of the ocean with their generous donations."We are grateful for their support," says Campbell. 
While the program has required a lot of time and effort, Campbell is positive about its future.
“I’m excited to see this program get off the ground and not only make Maui’s waterways safer for marine life, but also cleaner and more enjoyable for the community," she says. 
In addition to onsite recycling receptacles, used fishing line is accepted at New Maui Fishing Supply and Maui Sporting Goods in Wailuku, West Maui Sports and Fishing Supply in Lahaina and Hooked Up Fishing Supply in Kihei.
For more information, contact Pacific Whale Foundation’s Conservation Department at 808-856-8304, or email at
Donations to support the project are being accepted at Donors who contribute $60 or more will receive a free beach towel. Pacific Whale Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Donations are U.S. tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. 
Please donate today to help support Pacific Whale Foundation's Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program to protect sea turtles, dolphins, monk seals and other marine wildlife.Claim one of our colorful oversized beach towels with your tax-deductible donation of $60. Choose two with your donation of $100. Follow this link to donate.