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UCSD students hope to reel in fishing line hazards at Black’s Beach with proposal for recycling bins

Michael Tesis and the UCSD Triton Lobby Corps want to place bins like this at Black's Beach to recycle fishing line.
(Courtesy)

A UC San Diego student organization is casting a line intended to help solve a problem at La Jolla’s Black’s Beach, with the hope that its proposal will spread along the coast.

The danger, according to the UCSD Triton Lobby Corps, is that discarded used fishing line can entangle wildlife, causing injury or death. The group aims to address the issue through fishing line recycling bins at the beach’s entrances.

The idea came from Michael Tesis, a UCSD student and manager of environmental policy for the Triton Lobby Corps, which is part of the university’s Associated Students, or student council. “We work as the external outreach for the student body,” he said. “We work on things that the student body really cares about, as well as the broader community around UCSD.”

The recycling bins he proposes are “essentially a four-part PVC set: a long tube with an outstretched part” to put the used fishing line in, Tesis said.

“The design itself is narrow and long and meant to keep animals from getting into it to pull the fishing line out,” he said. “Other bins can’t properly collect the fishing line because it doesn’t bunch the same way. It just becomes a mess when it’s dropped among all other sorts of trash.”

The bins are modeled after those in a 2007 study by UC Davis, Tesis said. Similar bins exist in San Diego, though the closest one to La Jolla is 10 miles away in Mission Bay, he said.

Fishing wire is wrapped around a seagull's leg.
Fishing wire is wrapped around a seagull’s leg, which Michael Tesis of the UCSD Triton Lobby Corps says can lead to injury or even death.
(Courtesy)

“One of the problems that really made me want to do something,” he said, was that the wire “was getting caught on a lot of animals. It’s very common to see it wrapped around the leg of a seagull or a sandpiper, and it eventually leads to the bird losing their foot or dying.”

He said the problem also has been observed at La Jolla Cove, where sea lions can get tangled in fishing line.

“It’s also a problem for swimmers and surfers down there because it gets caught on their boards,” he said.

“I live right across from the beach and … I’ve noticed that there’s been an increase in shore fishing,” Tesis said. “Unfortunately, no one really has a place to throw away the fishing line after it’s used.

“When it’s out in the water, [it] often breaks and comes back ashore, and that’s just where it stays because no one wants to touch it.”

The Triton Lobby Corps project looks to install one bin at each of the four entrances to the 2-mile-long Black’s Beach, two of which are on the northern portion of the beach, which is owned and managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

The other two are on the southern portion of the beach, which is owned by the city of San Diego.

Each bin would cost about $60 to $70, Tesis said, for a total cost of about $300, including materials and installation. He’s hoping the city will fund the project and said the Triton Lobby Corps has met with City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, to ask for support.

LaCava said in a statement to the La Jolla Light that “UCSD students brought to my attention not only a long-standing issue that no one was talking about, but a proposed solution as well.”

LaCava said he looks “forward to partnering with the UCSD students and other organizations to move this proposal from concept to implementation.”

He called the program “an opportunity to recover, recycle and reuse fishing lines that currently plague our shorelines or are tossed in the trash. [It] is a win-win-win situation that will protect these at-risk environments, advance the city’s Climate Action Plan goals and maintain clean and safe beaches and oceans. This proposal is a great example of the importance of public input in local policy-making.”

Tesis said he also is working with the office of state Sen. Toni Atkins, whose 39th District includes La Jolla, to figure out jurisdictional issues between the two parts of Black’s Beach.

A representative of Atkins’ office told the Light that it would share Tesis’ proposal with the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Tesis said he is looking to contract with one of the companies in California that specialize in recycling fishing line. “It becomes profitable to them because the fishing line can be turned into all sorts of fishing gear and sold at tackle shops,” he said.

Tesis said the proposal is meant to be a pilot program. “Our hope is to eventually expand this to beaches across San Diego. We’re doing a lot of community outreach, and a lot of coastal neighborhoods really want this as well.” Organizations in Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach and Coronado have expressed interest in supporting the project, he said.

To further garner support, the Triton Lobby Corps started an online petition two weeks ago at change.org/BinToBeach that has collected more than 2,800 signatures so far from students, tourists and La Jolla residents, Tesis said — “people who are invested in keeping the beaches clean.”

He said he also is having a prototype bin installed at Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach — “a big fishing spot” — to demonstrate the program’s potential. The bin will be placed by the beginning of April on the property of Crystal Pier Bait and Tackle.

The shop’s owner, Pamela Taylor, said she is “thrilled” about the bin. “More and more people are coming to fish” on Crystal Pier, she said. “I get concerned about the fishing wire; I’m constantly picking it up.”

“I think it’s nice these young men and women are taking the initiative to do something like that,” Taylor said, “because fishing line is definitely a problem in our environment.”

For more information, email mtesis@ucsd.edu.