Thursday, August 3, 2017

Warwick Summer Cleanup Series

By Phoebe Finn, communications intern

Fishing has been a traditional part of living on Narragansett Bay for many generations. For most people it is a great way to relax, socialize and catch some dinner. However, as the summer months arrive and the amount of fishing increases, we need to make sure that fishermen are not leaving any gear behind on our beaches. Most people clean up their gear, but the few that leave it behind end up causing some serious problems.

Volunteers picked up 2,463 pieces of fishing gear during Rhode Island’s 2016 Intercoastal Cleanup and 100,000 meters of fishing line alone during the 2016 International Coastal Cleanup. That amount of fishing line is enough to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of any ocean, nine times! Compared to other items in Rhode Island, the amount of littered fishing gear is actually relatively small because most fishermen are respectful of the ocean that they rely on.

After completing one month of Save The Bay’s Warwick Summer Cleanup Series it is very clear how many fishermen there are here in Rhode Island, so Save The Bay started reaching out to bait and tackle shops to inform them of our beach cleanups. There are many local shops who have pledged to remind their customers of the dangers of littered fishing gear.

While visiting these bait shops I had the pleasure of meeting David Henault at Ocean State Tackle. David was extremely enthusiastic about keeping Narragansett Bay healthy, his partnership with Save The Bay and all the sustainable efforts that he has organized for his shop. After working on the Warwick Summer Cleanup Series for a couple of weeks, it was reassuring to meet such nice people like David who are not only passionate about reducing litter but also interested in making a difference in their day-to-day life.

Fishing gear may not be the most littered item in Narragansett Bay, but it is the most dangerous. Lines, nets, hooks and other gear are designed to entangle wildlife, and that is what they do, long after they are left behind. We have all seen heartbreaking photos of birds with fishing hooks stuck in their beaks, turtles with fishing line wrapped around them and whales entangled in massive nets. Littering is never okay, but in the case of fishing gear, it is especially important to make sure to dispose of it properly.

This dangerous problem has a very simple solution- keep marine species safe by taking your used fishing line, hooks, and any other trash with you when you leave the shore. Most of Warwick’s fishermen already leave their sites clean because they respect Narragansett Bay and know the impacts of littering, but a healthy and safe Narragansett Bay needs all anglers to be a part of the solution.