OC Boat Captain Helps Statewide Fishing Line Recycling Program – Orange County Register
Gary Brighouse still sees the gruesome scene: a week-old brown pelican lying dead, tangled in fishing line around its neck and legs.
“I just imagined the mom and the baby and how it all happened,” said Brighouse, who pilots boats for Captain Dave’s Dolphin Safari and Whale Watching, based in Dana Point Harbor.
During his days at sea and in port, he has also witnessed other entanglements, and he regularly sends photos and information to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, which has rescued sick, stranded and entangled for 50 years along the Orange County coast. .
He came across the dead pelican about five months ago, just after beginning his monthly effort to pick up abandoned fishing lines along the Dana Point pier. The scenic spot is home to seabirds of all kinds, from brown pelicans to gulls, cormorants and great blue herons. The pier sits at the mouth of the harbour, where hundreds of birds congregate at night along the rocks.
“He’s protected and they can see the predators coming down,” Brighouse said.
The pier is also where Brighouse began his efforts to explain to anglers why it’s not good to leave their lines lying around. They are not biodegradable and can remain in the environment for a long time.
Fishing lines can permanently maim or painfully kill animals caught in them. But they also cause other problems. Boat propellers can get caught in them, as the lines are often found around boat ramps, on docks and in fishing areas.
Brighouse’s monthly cleanup effort — and yes, it’s looking for more volunteers — is part of a statewide effort to recycle these potentially dangerous filaments.
The California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways and the California Coastal Commission administer the fishing line recycling program, which began in 2011 and has 322 actively maintained stations statewide. Salvaged lines are recycled into various products such as tackle boxes, spools for new line and even children’s toys.
So far, officials said, 2,447 pounds of line have been collected and recycled — an amount that, if expanded, would reach from San Francisco to Colombia’s Río Puré National Park. Once the line is retrieved, it is shipped to Iowa-based Berkley Fishing for reuse.
“Both the (Boating and Waterways Division) and the Coastal Commission are grateful to partners like Gary Brighouse,” said Vivian Natuk, who oversees the program. She added that if the fishing line is thrown in the trash, it still goes to the landfill, which creates the same risks for seabirds and other wildlife.
When Brighouse was at the pier on Thursday, he saw several fishermen who go there regularly and had no idea there were recycling containers or that it was important that the line be placed in special containers.
He explained the importance of recycling.
“When they cast, sometimes the hook gets stuck in the rocks on the pier,” Brighouse said. “Then they cut the line and left everything there. So a hook and a long line. They don’t bother trying to dislodge the hook. The other fishing line they throw in the ordinary trash, which goes to the landfill and entangles the birds in the landfill.
The state program has placed white recycling containers that look like pipes along piers, beaches, harbors and parks along the California coast. Locations include Ventura, Venice, Redondo Beach, Marina Del Rey, and Oceanside.
In Orange County, containers are in Dana Point Harbor along the pier, fishing pier, near the fuel pier and in the Harbor Patrol parking lot, and others are on the docks at Seal Beach, Sunset Beach, Huntington Beach and Balboa in Newport Beach.
Often fishermen and bathers do not know what the containers are for and need to be informed. That’s where volunteers like Brighouse come in.
“Every time I’m out there I let the fishermen know,” Brighouse said. “I tell them how hard it is to get an animal out, especially a 700 pound sea lion.”
He explains to them how the line can cut flesh, form a constriction on the neck of animals and slice off fins and tails.
Brighouse estimates he retrieves hundreds of yards of fishing line every time he is at the pier.
“I am a person who is passionate about animal rescue,” the Irvine resident said. “I saw entangled baby whales, sea lions and seabirds; it’s a huge problem and a terrible way to die.