KLAMATH FALLS — Plastic. It’s in everything.
It’s in your soap.
It’s in your clothing.
It’s in your American cheese.
I kid, of course. It’s probably not in your soap.
You pay with plastic.
You put what you bought in plastic bags.
You hop into a largely plastic car.
You live in houses filled with plastic appliances and furnishings.
For better or worse, we are a society fueled by plastic, shrink-wrapped by something we’ve become so accustomed to that it’s become indistinguishable from us.
Thanks to the immortal lyrics of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl,” we know “Life in plastic, it’s fantastic.”
Nothing is more popular than green marketing, and despite what some Oregonians may be celebrating this week, I am not referring to marketing a certain plant.
No, I’m referring to the green movement, which effectively aims to monetize and incentivize businesses for “going green” while reducing the harmful effects of humanity on planet earth.
It’s a good idea, really, but one group has remained largely silent on the issue: anglers.
Since our entire industry is built on the need for a healthy environment, this is kind of concerning. Anglers should not only be advocates for going green but practitioners thereof.
So much fishing tackle is harmful or potentially harmful that we must take precautions and reduce the consumption of environmentally detrimental products.
In a recent column, I talked about plastic bags and how, while far from perfect, they currently fill a niche that has no mainstream alternative.
If you answered “Well, paper bags,” you’re wrong.
Paper bags are not a comparable product. They don’t function when wet. They can’t be cleaned.
They’re not waterproof. They’re not as strong. You can’t wet them and place a fish inside of them to weigh it in a pinch.
The idea behind paper bags is great, but they don’t really replace the functionality of plastic bags, and therein lies the problem. Several cities have plastic bag bans in place. These bans are a great idea in theory, but in practice, they’re terribly inconvenient.
Paper bags just can’t do everything a plastic bag can. Like Baldwin brothers, they are not interchangeable and have very different capabilities.
Despite the egregious reality that plastic bags are filling our rivers, streams and oceans, in my opinion, plastic bags should not be our focus just yet.
Would I love to see an equally functional alternative to plastic bags? Of course.
Does it exist? Not yet.
Plastic bags and other “single-use plastics” are pervasive. Perhaps the best way to curb this problem is to either limit our consumption of single-use plastics that do have viable alternatives.
Take, for instance, water bottles. Either replace your Aquafina or Dasani bottle with something more permanent (i.e., buy a refillable water bottle) or maximize the use you get out of it (i.e., refill that plastic water bottle for a week before recycling it).
There are things within our control, and we have to own them and act upon them. After all, my aversion to single-use plastics is one of the many reasons I don’t practice casual sex.
Choosing to eliminate these products as we “go green” is great, but we have to vilify those products with viable, green alternatives before we attack those that don’t really have better options.
Anglers can take the first steps by starting small. Help support the waters you love with a few easy changes:
1. Properly dispose of soft plastics. Fish will eat that Senko whether or not it’s on a hook, so be sure to throw away every beat-up old soft plastic you have instead of tossing it in the lake.
2. Cut old line. Every time you respool, take time to cut your old fishing line into short sections, a few inches long, before throwing it away. The loops of line are a death sentence for some hapless bird, fish or turtle if you don’t.
3. Go unleaded. It’s a slow trend, but we’re starting to see nontoxic alternatives to lead. It is slightly more expensive, but start small by replacing your lead split shots with tin. Don’t throw away what you have — that’s also wasteful — but when you lose your last sinker, restock with nontoxic alternatives.
4. Pick up trash. Next time you head out to your favorite water, bring back a little trash and throw it away. It takes time, but it can make a difference.
5. Choose your bait wisely. Most of the bait we buy still comes in styrofoam containers, which will take at least 500 years to decompose — and that’s a conservative estimate, according to sciencing.com. Encourage your local bait dealer to switch to cardboard containers instead, which take less than five years to decompose.
6. Donate time and money. You’re already supporting fish and wildlife management when you buy a fishing license, but donate your time and money to an organization aimed at protecting wildlife and wildlands like the North American Native Fishes Association (NANFA), Trout Unlimited or the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). These organizations work to make sure our sport remains sustainable for generations to come.
It’s time anglers go green before fish start looking green in the gills at which point, it will be too late.