Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tangled in an Environmental Problem

I believe that healthy ecosystems are essential to environmental sustainability. And obviously animals are a major component of healthy ecosystems. I'm sure you've heard people say that when one species goes extinct, it has a domino effect. So, quick example; in the 1920's, wolves were hunted so much in Yellowstone that elk populations (one of their prey) grew so much that they overgrazed vegetation, which left little food for other animals. Over the past few days, I have been following a local story which is not nearly as drastic, but is still an illustration of man's impact on wildlife.
A baby swan that lives on a local lake is in trouble due to someone's carelessness. It has a fishing hook stuck in its beak, with line tangled around its face and the bobber still stuck to it. My friend Sue who lives on the lake took some pictures. It's really sad to see. Sue and other people are trying to help, but it is hard to capture the swan to take it in for treatment. Hopefully it will get some help, as this is supposed to be a news story on local channels 9 and 12 sometime in the coming days.
Some people may argue that this is an environmental blog, and technically swans are an invasive species that can have negative environmental impacts (aggressive towards native species, uprooting aquatic vegetation, etc.). Ok, yes, I know, but my point here is man impacts wildlife. Besides, how can you look at the pictures and not feel bad? Plus, this is a small family of swans on a large lake. I doubt they are causing major negative impacts. Even if you have issues and don't like swans for being a non-native species, throwing away fishing hooks and lines into the environment also affects other local water animals like ducks, geese, cormorants, fish, and otters. Hooks can cause infection, and if line gets tangled around their mouths, they can starve. Or if line is tangled on another body part, the animal can grow until it cuts off their circulation or cuts into their skin.
The other part of this problem is the littering. Plastic lines and bobbers do not break down well. So when they are left in the water, they can be around for years with the potential to cause harm. I've done environmental clean-ups at lakes, and fishing lines were everywhere. So if you fish, make sure to take home all your garbage. On a positive note, while hiking the other day at Mahlon Dickerson, a reservation by my house, I saw a few fishing line recycling posts. I thought that was a great idea and something communities should look into. A quick Google search on "fishing line recycling" is a good starting point. I'm not sure who manages the ones I saw, but according to the sign, they were an eagle scout project, so good job kid who built them. (And good job boy scouts, that's called progress. Anything else you need to be progressive about?)
So my point today is think about your actions. Littering may not affect you in the short term, but it does affect wildlife. And as animals are an important part of the environment, we should be protecting them.

fishing line recycling post

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