Each year derelict fishing gear entangles and kills Sarasota Bay’s iconic seabirds, especially impacting Brown Pelicans, Snowy Egrets, Cormorant, and Great Blue Herons. Monofilament is often picked up by the birds away from the rookery and introduced to the rookery when the birds return creating an increased danger to other birds. Marine mammals and sea turtles or also impacted.
Removing fishing line from bird nesting habitat, islands and coastlines helps to protect our sea birds from fishing line entanglement — which almost always results in death. Sarasota Bay Watch collaborates with Audubon Florida to cleanup bird rookeries in October because most birds do not nest in the fall. Prior to choosing which sites to cleanup, SBW members scout areas to identify areas heavily impacted by fishing line and fishing debris that need cleaning with resultant bird rescue and data sharing and bird populations.
Participants receive hands-on education about the impact and dangers of marine debris, the network of organizations supporting the cause, and develop a sense of ‘ownership’ for local monofilament cleanup efforts and ‘their’ cleaned area and “their rescued bird”. The end result is an informed active community working together to improve our local waterways, islands, and rookeries. These efforts create stewards of students, businesses, community volunteers and organizations.
Sarasota Bay Watch Monofilament efforts remove fishing gear while
- Improving the safety for humans and birds
- Returning the native island ecosystem to a pristine and natural setting
- Rescuing entangled birds and transporting to rehabilitation center
- Providing hands-on education regarding the hazards of discarded monofilament and fishing gear
- Promoting bay stewardship.
Currently SBW holds two annual monofilament cleanup events each year in the fall
Participants include high school students from Venice to Sarasota and enthusiastic, concerned community volunteers ranging in age from 6 to 86 interested in clean water and shorelines, and local bird populations.
- Annual Midnight Pass Fishing Line Crew Cleanup — Covers Midnight Pass shorelines and Roberts Bay Rookeries. Based out of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast. Participants include Sarasota Crew representing various high schools from Venice and Sarasota.
- Annual Fall Monofilament Cleanup — Covers Sarasota Bay shorelines from Cortez to Roberts Bay and Philippi Creek. Based out of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron and participants include Sarasota Bay Watch volunteers and Sarasota High School Marine Club and the Carefree Learner.
Participating Partners and their roles
- Sarasota Bay Watch organizes and executes events and networking with partners.
- Audubon of Florida provides professional advice for location and timing of rookery cleanups.
- Save our Seabirds provides demonstrations to volunteers about safe rescuing and handling of entangled birds and receipt of entangled and injured birds rescued during the cleanups.
- Mote Marine Interns (represented by multiple local high schools) provide cleanup assistance and data collection, including assistance in weighing and measuring collected materials and charting sites.
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Entanglement Working Group shares our data with statewide groups working on regulation and protection issues in regard to derelict fishing line.
- Sarasota Sailing Squadron hosts the Annual Monofilament Cleanup and provides lunch to participants.
- Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast hosts the annual Midnight Pass Cleanup and provides refreshments to participants.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Entanglement Working Group
SBW collaborates with the programs of Mote Marine, Audubon of Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Entanglement Working Group, and NOAA to address the marine debris issues. The SBW project goals reflect the best practices in marine debris cleanup, education outreach, and organizational networking as influenced by these professional organizations.
The fishing line that is collected is weighed and measured and the data shared with local and state scientists working on entanglement issues. SBW has instituted a method of weighing and measuring the line and debris using the techniques recommended by Mote Marine and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Entanglement Working Group. Materials collected and numbers of entangled birds are mapped and charted. All materials weighed measured and data summarized with assistance of Mote Interns in October/November. In May 2014 SBW participated in a marine debris workshop to share ideas, present findings, and network for new ideas/techniques.
Sarasota Bay Watch will standardize its data and archive the information to improve the accessibility of its program, data, and progress and increase the benefit of SBW efforts for the public and organizations working with marine debris and entanglement issues, fishing impact and practices, geographical debris concerns and bird and rookery safety and health. Developing a structure to improve usefulness of data will not only increase the programs benefit for organizations working with marine debris and bird entanglement issues but also increase the realm of outreach, raise awareness of marine debris issues locally, educate on prevention, while increasing enthusiasm for the program.
SBW utilizes a standardized data collection platform that allows for comparison between collection sites and years propelling the volunteer efforts of bay stewards to become data useful for scientific study and collaboration with the Entanglement Working Group and NOAA. Once established a future web-based data viewing component will be developed.