We recently begun a small program manually removing fishing line from patches of Coral growth in the tidal areas of Ballito, Salt Rock and Sheffield Beach.
Initially our intentions were purely aesthetic in nature, the fishing line (and there is a lot of it) just looked plain ugly. But then a reality begun to dawn, the fishing line we were finding was not just tangled in the coral, it was actually killing the coral. We begun looking even closer and found that some areas, almost half the coral growth was either dead or dying as a direct result of fishing line. The fishing line acts as a "trap" catching algage and other plant material which eventually just suffocates the coral. Well over 50% of any coral "patch" we find has been impacted by discarded old fishing line.
In Oahu, Hawaii, scientists recorded fishing lines on 65% of cauliflower coral (Pocillopora meandrina) colonies surveyed with increasing percentages of entirely or partially dead colonies being found in areas of with high percentages of colonies with fishing lines. A strong relationship was also found between the percentages of surface area with fishing lines and the percentage of dead surface area. In short, popular cast fishing areas were being destroyed at over twice the rate of areas where cast fishing was not practiced.
In many small pools that we have been cleaning out locally, we regularly see young children and their parents simply having fun with a small fishing rod, trying to catch little fish in the tidal pools, but under the surface, this rather innocent behavior was having extremely detrimental impacts on the coral life. We would guess these beach loving families would be mortified at the destruction they were causing. This fishing litter problem, combined with the impacts of coral bleaching, litter, extreme weather conditions, increased sedimentation, the rare few patches of coral still surviving along KwaZulu-Natal's North Coast could be a thing of the past very soon.
The good news is that by gently clearing the coral of fishing line we have noticed an almost immediate improvement in the general appearance and health of individual coral patches (we assume from removal of fishing line, the associated algae growth and sediments immediately get cleaned out) leaving the coral looking more colourful and "what it should be" with very little fuss.
Although, cleaning coral is a very delicate process and one can easily do more damage than good. We found this very handy set of tips & advice for clearing fishing line from coral areas on the Coral Reef Alliance Website www.coral.org (Below) Anyone wanting to get involved or assist us with any of our cleaning or awareness projects ....please give us a shout here or visit our "caring section" to find out more about how you can get involved!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- to leave.
- 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.
- 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.