A program to protect wildlife from the perils of discarded fishing lines, conceived and developed by a Parkland teenager, has so impressed officials that the city is implementing it in two of its major parks.
The city will soon introduce fishing line recycling bins at Pine Trails Park and Terramar Park to encourage people in the community to dispose them of the right way. The program will be implemented in phases in other parks and communities within Parkland.
Michael Schaja’s program involves making recycling bins using PVC pipes and other materials, and putting them in strategic locations within the city. With the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) supplying all the needed materials for free, there is no financial burden on the city.
Volunteering at South Florida Wildlife Center in Fort Lauderdale opened Michael’s eyes to an unfortunate reality – birds and animals getting entangled in discarded fishing lines and, as a result, suffering injuries. After many hours of online research and talks with the FFWCC), he was ready with a project that he hoped the city would support.
Mayor Michael Udine was enjoying his weekend when he received a phone call from Michael, a ninth grader at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. What he heard from the teenager left him impressed.
“It was such a fantastic idea,” Udine, who invited Michael to speak before the city commission, said at a recent meeting. “It does not cost the city anything. It is something we should definitely do.”
“Monofilament fishing lines are terrible for the environment,” Michael told city officials. “At the South Florida Wildlife Center, I have seen birds and turtles being brought with fishing lines wrapped around their necks. It is very sad.”
The Parkland teenager wants to be in charge of the program in the city. “I am willing to do anything to help the environment,” he said. “I am glad the city liked my idea. I see the installation of the recycling bins as a two-step process, first in parks and then in private communities. I will coordinate with the FFWCC for materials.”
Commissioner Stacy Kagan wants the city to advertise the program as much as possible. “I love the fact that you are environmentally proud,” she told Michael. “At your age, it is amazing that you have come up with such a great idea.”
Andrea is excited by her son’s project. “I am proud of the fact that he came up with the project on his own. He is confident that he can really make a difference,” she said. “He has a lot of support from friends and the community. The mayor gave him full attention when he spoke to him about the project.”
Michael is planning to do all he can to spread word about the program. “I have spoken to my friends and teachers, and will address members of ‘Save What Is Left’ club at our school. I also plan to distribute fliers and brochures at the city’s fishing derby.”
The city’s support of Michael’s idea comes at a time when environment lovers in the state are busy promoting a fishing line/monofilament line recovery program. The program educates the public about the environmental dangers of not using recycling bins to dispose of fishing lines. Volunteer monofilament line cleanup events are also part of the program.