The increasing presence of plastics in the Caribbean Sea has created an environment rife with unnatural perils for marine life. In Cayman, the public has been gripped by stories of turtle and shark deaths caused by floating ‘ghost’ nets, which can entangle, maim and drown animals.
Worldwide, illegally disposed of fishing gear ranks among the top sources of marine litter, but plastic bottles, Styrofoam and straws also pose a significant threat.
“We [are] concerned about plastic in the marine environment, impacts on creatures like marine turtles, and also potentially sea birds becoming entangled in either plastic bags or fishing line,” said Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment.
To prevent unnecessary marine deaths from discarded fishing gear, the DoE has established 40 fishing line recycling bins at public docks, dive shops and fishing supply stores. The line collected from the bins is recycled overseas.
DoE research officer Janice Blumenthal said about 200 pounds of fishing line had been recycled overseas so far.
“Entanglement in lost or discarded fishing line is one of the most severe threats to juvenile turtles in the Cayman Islands,” Blumenthal said.
“Fishing line is nearly invisible underwater and causes drowning and severe injuries such as flipper amputations when it tangles turtles.”