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.
Currently, Sarasota Bay Watch monofilament cleanup event is once a year in the fall
Participants include high school students from Venice to Bradenton and enthusiastic, concerned community volunteers ranging in age from 6 to 86 interested in clean water and shorelines, and local bird populations.
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.
NOAA’s Florida Entanglement Working Group
Sarasota Bay Watch has contributed to the state’s Marine Debris Reduction Plan by participating in the Entanglement Working Group with FWC, NOAA, and others to address marine debris issues. This project goals reflect the best practices in marine debris cleanup, education outreach, and organizational networking as influenced by these professional organizations.
The fishing line, nets, gear, and traps are weighed and measured and the data shared with local and state scientists working on entanglement issues. SBW also contributes to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s data collection for derelict trap retrieval.
Sarasota Bay Watch is developing a structure to improve usefulness of data to not only increase the programs benefit for organizations working with marine debris and bird and animal 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. change this to Sarasota Bay Watch is 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.
Participating Partners and their roles
- 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 shares our data on debris and traps with statewide groups working on regulation and protection issues in regard to derelict fishing gear.
- Sarasota Sailing Squadron hosts the Annual Monofilament Cleanup and provides lunch to participants.
- Venice Reef Rovers and Suncoast Aqua Ventures, active dive groups committed to marine debris retrieval, provide additional activities and support for cleanup efforts.