Eight million. I think we can all agree that’s a pretty big number. It’s also a number with huge meaning for the fishing tackle industry. If it were referring to the number of new anglers taking up the sport in a year, or the number of new fishing rods sold in the USA, we’d quite rightly be pretty stoked about it. But what if this number was actually the amount of plastic waste in tons that makes its way into our planet’s oceans each year?

The bad news is that’s exactly what this number refers to.

According to National Geographic, half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 15 years, and plastic production has increased exponentially from 2.3million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons in 2015. That production is expected to double again by 2050, meaning that the eight million figure could get a heck of a lot worse. Why is this a problem for fishing? Well, besides the fact that the animals our industry depends on live in the waters that are being gradually destroyed by this pollution, we also have a slight dependency problem with single-use plastics ourselves – covering everything from fishing line, to product packaging, to lures. 

What is the Plastic Problem?

  • The equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute
  • By 2050 there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish, by weight
  • Plastic pollution has been found all over the world, even Antarctica and the Arctic
  • 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and one million sea birds die from plastic ingestion each year
  • More than 90 per cent of fish are believed to have micro plastics in their stomachs, according to NOAA scientists
  • Much of the plastic waste in the oceans gets there via rivers

How Can Fishing Tackle Makers Help?

There is some good news in all this – mainly that we humans have never been so aware of the problem at hand and are doing more than ever to deal with it, with our own industry being no exception. In fact, fishing tackle has taken the lead on many initiatives to stem the flow of plastic waste pollution in recent times – from Costa’s Kick Plastic to the UK’s Anglers National Line Recycling Scheme – all of which have done their bit, both in terms of reducing plastic pollution and raising awareness about the issue. Anglers are also usually pretty plastic pollution savvy and tend not to polute the environments they love. But, this is a big problem, and subsequently we need to pool our ideas and resources in order to fight it – enter The BoatUS Foundation. 

Alongside partners Berkley and MDK Zero Landfill, BoatUS Foundation is laying down the gauntlet to anglers, boaters, outdoorsmen, inventors, entrepreneurs, students and just about anybody to help come up with ideas for how to make fishing better at dealing with its plastic-based vices. The organization has slapped more than $30,000 worth of cash prices to the fence post as a reward for ideas that can help make recycling fishing line, soft baits and other fishing tackle products more attractive, more efficient and more accessible. First place in the contest will receive $15,000, while second and third get $10,000 and $5,000 respectively, but more importantly, the winner will have significantly helped tackle the plastic problem in the United States, and that’s something money probably can’t buy.

Presently there are several fishing line recycling initiatives in action in the USA, such as BoatUS Foundation’s Reel In and Recycle program, but even this is less than perfect with problems such as: trash, soft lures, hooks and weights ending up in line bins, the sheer labour intensiveness of the process, and plastic waste products becoming contaminated and unable to be recycled. Ideas that could help streamline certain aspects of this process, solve the sticking points, or even completely invent a new process are the kinds of things BoatUS is welcoming – and the same applies for soft bait recycling, for which there is currently no nationwide program for, only local ones. 

“Whether it’s monofilament line, braided line or soft baits, we want there to be a sustainable, large-scale solution to keeping line out of our waters and landfills where it can remain a problem for birds and wildlife,” said BoatUS Foundation Director of Outreach Alanna Keating.

“We want to know how to make the process better. There’s no limit on the possibilities, but keep in mind that judges will add weight to contest submissions that actually work, are practical, innovative, and have the potential to have a significant impact. We really don’t know where a breakthrough could materialize.”

Ideas for the contest must be submitted by 14th May 2021 to be considered for judging, with the plan being to announce a winner by June. So, what are you waiting for? If you have an innovative, useful, practical and possible idea that would help give us the winning hand in the battle against plastic pollution then share it with BoatUS Foundation, share it with the USA—and the world.