Why remove fishing line?
line can be dangerous to animals. Crabs, especially, can become so
entangled in monofilament line that they cannot move at all. They face
slow death by starvation.
- Line harms coral it rests upon, directly, by rubbing the coral's delicate tissue between the line and the coral skeleton.
- Line harms coral it rests upon, indirectly, by blocking light to the coral tissues.
- Line can entangle divers and other marine animals. We know of one
case in which a young turtle drowned because it was entangled in
fishing line and couldn't get to the surface.
Which line should be left alone?
- Overgrown or encrusted line, unless it is damaging coral or other living things.
- Line holding sponges or other organisms in place or off the bottom.
Which line should be removed?
- New line (without growth), no matter where it is.
- Line draped over coral, sponges, or other animals.
- Tangles of line.
- Line suspended between pier pilings.
- Line draped around pier pilings, even when sponges or other animals are living on the line.
Which line should neither be collected nor left alone?
We used to leave tangles of old line alone, until the little turtle
drowned. Now we cut the tangle away from the piling or anything it's
attached to, and cut away and take the line we can separate. The rest
we place on the bottom.
Collecting fishing line
How to collect line that is draped along the reef or around a piling
- Find an end, or cut the line to create an end. (You can coil the other side next)
- Coil the line loosely around your hand, or snugly around a bottle, can, or other debris item.
- Swim along the line as you coil it. DO NOT pull if there is any
resistance; the line is entangled and your tug could rip a sponge or
tumble a coral head.
- When the line passes under or through something and you cannot continue coiling, cut the line.
- If you collect algae-encrusted line, swish it vigorously through
the water, run it through your hands, etc. to encourage any residents
- Whenever possible fasten the line so it won't uncoil; loose line
can catch on coral or your gear. Being entangled in the line you're
collecting is embarrassing enough so you're not likely to do it twice.
- Stash the coiled line in the collection bag. If you do not have a bag, you can stash the coil in your BCD pocket.
How to collect line when you find a tangle
- Lift the biggest knot until the contributing lines get tense.
- Cut all the contributing lines but one; follow that one, coiling
the line around the tangle, until that line ends or must be cut.
- Stash the coil.
- Return for the contributing lines, one at a time, if possible.
What about other rubbish?
Anything that is new, without growth, should be brought up. Take only
debris with no growth or attached animals. No matter how new the debris
looks, inspect it carefully for residents before taking it.
- Necessary: shears (the best), or other cutting instrument, one per collector.
- Recommended: net bag in which to stash coils of line. container
(jar, bottle, can) in which to put hooks. This could be carried inside
the net bag. Gloves if you are collecting encrusted line.
After the dive
No matter how carefully one checks algae-encrusted line (or other
debris) for residents, little crabs and shrimp are likely to be left in
the debris. Placing the line in a clean bucket, in the shade, for a few
minutes after the dive often causes the critters who are left to desert
their line; pick up the line and you may find critters left in the
bucket. Shake the line hard into the bucket, and you may notice a few
more critters. Wait as long as possible to put the line into the actual
Safety issues in collecting fishing line
- Be alert for the sounds of boat movement and the actual boats.
- Stay away from the surface of the water.
- If there's fishing line, there'll be people fishing. Keep
especially alert for a cluster of fish around a spot in mid-water; the
fish are probably nibbling bait on a hook. Stay away - and keep your
bubbles away from the baited hook, for your own safety and in
consideration of the fishers.
- Hooks are not only on the lines being actively used, they're on
many of the lines to be removed. Some can be smaller than your little
fingernail, others much bigger. Be on the lookout for hooks when you're
coiling line, so you don't stab yourself!
- Removing hooks from the line and stashing them in a container, such as a beer can, is the safest way to deal with them.
Fire coral, stinging hydroids, etc. are easy to avoid: don't touch
anything except fishing line (and other debris) without growth
Entanglement won't be an issue as long as you work slowly and neatly, coiling line as you go along.
This fact sheet brought to you by Dee Scarr of Touch the Sea.
Copyright 2005 The Coral Reef Alliance. All rights reserved.