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North Park takes step to protect lake animals

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

John Tortorea takes a fishing pole to a river or a lake four to five times a week.

The retired Bloomfield resident, 69, said he caught four trout and then released them at North Park Lake in McCandless on Friday morning.

Tortorea said he takes special care to clean up after himself, and pointed to the small trash bag he packed in his tackle box.

“You shouldn't be a pig fisherman,” he said, referring to fishermen who leave trash, including discarded fishing line, behind.

North Park features 17 new receptacles built to collect used fishing line so that it can be recycled, and won't endanger animals.

“They're a good thing. They're a really good thing,” Tortorea, who has been fishing for 46 years, said.

Most fishing line is made of a strong, transparent plastic material called monofilament that can entangle birds, fish and other aquatic animals, according to the Pennsylvania Coastal Resources Management Program.

“They get caught up in this fishing line and they lose their limbs … or get hung from a tree, or sometimes birds pick this kind of stuff up and bring it back to their nests,” said Robert Habegger of the Friends of North Park, an organization that raises money to fund park projects and organizes trash cleanups.

Entanglement can cause injury, drowning or starvation, and large amounts of the line can snare boats.

Friends of North Park will send the collected fishing line to Berkley, a fishing line company in Spirit Lake, Iowa, that operates the Berkley Conservation Institute. Berkley makes underwater fish habitats from recycled monofilament fishing line and line spools.

Each collection receptacle at North Park is made from 4-inch PVC pipe and an elbow, Habegger said.

The Allegheny County Parks Department paid for the materials.

“We just noticed that there is a lot of garbage left when people fish, and we want to give the fishermen every possibility to be responsible with their line,” county parks Director Andrew G. Baechle said.

The Friends of North Park assembled the receptacles and mounted them on sign posts at the park April 7. The containers were modeled after those at Moraine State Park in Butler County, Habegger said.

Cub Scout packs will recover the material and record statistics about what is collected at North Park, Habegger said.

On the first collection day, April 22, which was Earth Day, 10.8 ounces of fishing line, or the equivalent of 1.2 miles, were taken out of the containers, he said.

The county has asked the Friends of North Park to establish a fishing line recycling program at Deer Lakes Park in West Deer, where eight receptacles will be placed soon, he said.

There are at least 3,000 fishing line receptacles nationwide, and 2,000 of them were built by the Boat U.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water, said Susan Shingledecker, vice president of the Annapolis, Md.-based foundation.

Intending to build on the success of Florida's monofilament recovery and recycling program, the foundation received $250,000 over five years from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Debris Program to build and ship the 2,000 fishing line receptacles starting in 2006, Shingledecker said.

When the grant ended, the foundation continued to ship signs and educational information to groups, including Friends of North Park. It also tracks collections. “It's still continuing to gain momentum,” Shingledecker said.




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