Old fishing line harms wildlife

How the Critical Catch program is safeguarding Georgian Bay, one tangled mess of mono at a time


Fishing is a cherished pastime, offering outdoor enthusiasts the chance to connect with nature and reel in unforgettable memories. There are, however, environmental challenges associated with our beloved sport, most notably the negative impact of abandoned fishing gear such as monofilament line. When broken off or discarded, the thin, nearly invisible line becomes easily entangled in vegetation, rocks and other structures, posing a major threat to wildlife and wildlife habitat. As outdoor enthusiasts, it is our responsibility to protect and preserve shorelines, rivers and lakes, keeping them free from such harmful discarded gear.

Inspired by the beauty of Georgian Bay and driven by a sense of responsibility, I developed The Critical Catch program in 2023 as project manager with Georgian Bay Forever, a registered Canadian charity. Through science, research, education, cleanup initiatives and community engagement, our organization’s mission is to preserve and protect Georgian Bay’s unique aquatic ecosystem and the wildlife that rely on it for survival.


The Critical Catch aims to shine a spotlight on the harmful effects of pollution. This comprehensive conservation and education program focuses on responsible fishing practices, equipping anglers with the knowledge and tools they need to the protect earth’s natural resources. A key part of that is highlighting the need to safely dispose of monofilament fishing line.


It all started during our 2022 shoreline cleanup season, when we were confronted with a troubling sight: discarded fishing gear entangled in the natural beauty of Georgian Bay. Our call to action became clear when our staff collected more than 450 metres of fishing line after just two shoreline cleanups, and stumbled upon an owl ensnared in abandoned line.


In launching The Critical Catch, we proudly partnered with Clear Your Gear, another organization committed to responsible fishing practices. Through our collaboration, we’ve so far installed 15 monofilament recycling stations, strategically placed at prime fishing locations along the Georgian Bay shoreline. These locations were selected after consulting with local communities, marinas and fishing clubs, ensuring easy access for anglers to responsibly dispose of their used line. We’ve also provided anglers themselves with portable monofilament recycling containers, helping them to safely collect their line waste while still on the water.

Old fishing line harms wildlife

Monofilament fishing line is not recyclable in traditional waste management systems, which is why these designated recycling stations are necessary. Each station is monitored by a dedicated volunteer during the fishing season, and the line is collected, weighed and sent to Berkley Fishing for proper recycling. During the first year of the program alone, in collaboration with our dedicated volunteers, we collected approximately 38,318 metres of discarded fishing line—a clear indication of the dire importance of such an initiative.



Our commitment also extends beyond clean-up efforts. In partnership with the Georgian Triangle Anglers’ Association, for example, we’re actively engaging schools within the local communities, inviting students to raise brook trout through our Fish in the Classroom program. This hands-on experience not only connects youth to Georgian Bay’s waters, but it also educates them about the vital role these waters play in both their lives and those of wildlife.

The Critical Catch’s objectives are clear: remove marine debris, specifically abandoned fishing gear, from our shorelines; develop meaningful connections between local residents and Georgian Bay through our Fish in the Classroom program and shoreline cleanup efforts; and educate community members about the detrimental impacts of improperly discarded fishing gear on Georgian Bay’s unique ecosystem.

Our approach also involves setting up information booths at events, and meticulously tracking the garbage collected during cleanups, again with a special focus on fishing gear. Working with anglers, the community and all stakeholders, we can ensure Georgian Bay remains healthy and thriving for generations to come.

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Learn more about Georgian Bay Forever and The Critical Catch program at www.georgianbayforever.org. You can also contact project manager Ashley Morrison via email at ashley.morrison@gbf.org or by phone at (905) 880-4945, ext. 6. To stay updated on Georgian Bay Forever’s initiatives and events, follow @gbayforever on Instagram and Facebook.