Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) has installed fishing line recycling tubes along the banks of the Los Angeles River, and has begun an education and outreach program to anglers to protect river and shore birds from being tangled and seriously, or even fatally, injured by leftover lines. When larger birds, such as herons, egrets, and cormorants, smell the remnants of fish on discarded lines and scavenge through a regular trash can for the catch, they can get tangled up in the line, which can limit their mobility and cause injuries and serious infections. In this pilot program, FoLAR worked with Council Member Mitch O’Farrell, the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council, and with a grant from Trout Unlimited to set up fishing line recycling tubes in popular woodsy fishing areas along the Los Angeles River. Anglers can safely dispose of their fishing lines in these tubes that the birds are not able to access.
Since Senate Bill 1201 opened up the River as a recreational zone in 2012, more and more anglers have discovered how great the Los Angeles River is for fishing in areas like Atwater Park and that’s brought an increasing number of fishermen along the banks.
“Fishing the Los Angeles River is important for our community. It’s about enjoying a shared experience for anglers and families, but we also must be good stewards and make sure it’s safe for everyone, including our wildlife,” said William Preston Bowling, special projects manager, FoLAR. “The fishing line recycling program does that by letting people easily and safely discard their fishing lines, so that we can all enjoy our River and protect our incredible river and shore birds and the lush environment here.”
FoLAR has also implemented an education outreach program to inform people of the risks to the birds and how they can help by collecting and disposing of their fishing lines safely in the bird-safe tubes. FoLAR will empty the contents of these tubes weekly throughout the summer months until October 1, the end of the River fishing season.
This program was prompted when a great blue heron, nicknamed Mr. Fred by residents who lived nearby, was injured along the banks of FrogTown when it got tangled up in a discarded fishing line. The bird developed an infection that moved into its bones, and unfortunately, it did not survive. FoLAR was then spurred to research a solution and discovered these tubes that have been used on ocean piers and in streams in the High Sierras where fly fishing is popular. These have been proven successful in helping to protect the wildlife.
When FoLAR staff and volunteers empty the tubes on a weekly basis, they will send the fishing line to Berkley Conservation Institute in Iowa that will recycle the fishing line into safe fish habitats that can be put back in the water in oceans and lakes. These habitat structures attract fish and encourage plant growth almost immediately, providing the natural cover essential to the growth of a healthy fish population and ecosystem.
“I’m so pleased to work with FoLAR and take the initiative to address this vital environmental issue and protect our beautiful birds. We encourage the community to come out and fish and enjoy the River and all the outdoor experiences it has to offer,” said Sean Woods, Los Angeles Sector Superintendent, California Department of Parks and Recreation. “By installing these fishing line recycling tubes we can do that and keep our majestic birds safe. The recycling tubes are also a symbolic recognition that the Los Angeles River is alive and well and provides an important habitat for a wide variety of birds and fish in the heart of our city.”