What do fishing line, plastic bottles, balloons, plastic bags, food packaging and baby diapers have in common?

What do fishing line, plastic bottles, balloons, plastic bags, food packaging and baby diapers have in common?

They are all types of man-made objects found in our local waterways and become marine debris.

Marine debris is man-made waste that somehow makes it into a waterway. Once it travels through the currents, it can distribute worldwide. Marine debris is considered one of the world’s most widespread pollution problems.

As spring takes hold and warmer days creep in, locals and visitors flock to our outdoor areas — like local rivers, lakes, beaches, Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico — for adventure and fun.

These areas are economically and ecologically important to all the Panhandle's surrounding areas. They are part of a watershed, the area in which all water flows into a common area.

Every water body and wetland has an associated watershed, whether it is a small backyard pond or a large bay. Everything that occurs within this area directly determines that water body's health. Understanding this is crucial to creating a healthier landscape that we all work to create, conserve and protect.

Waterway debris can harm animals and post a health risk for humans. The risk of broken glass, rusty hooks and entanglement can harm health and enjoyment of these areas. Items such as ropes, bags, nets and other debris can wrap around boat propellers, clog intakes and create costly damage and safety hazards.

It is just as important to keep streets, sidewalks, yards and other land areas clean, as they are part of the watershed. Trash in these areas will ultimately become marine debris.

So, no matter what recreational outdoor activities you enjoy this spring and summer, please remember to reduce, reuse and recycle. Pick up your trash and help keep our waterways clean for us and the generations to come.

The smallest actions, such as recycling your fishing line in local monofilament bins, can make a big difference.

Contact me at bsaari@ufl.edu or 689-5850 for more information or to become involved in local clean-ups.


Studies have shown that more than 260 species of animals worldwide have ingested or been entangled in some type of debris. Approximately 100,000 marine animals, such as dolphins, whales and sea turtles are choked or entangled in fishing line, nets and ropes yearly.

Brooke Saari is an agent at the University of Florida's  Extension office in Crestview.