SHALISE Leesfield is an 11-year-old eco-trailblazer who is determined to make a difference to the environment.
The Lake Cathie resident has spent the last 18 months collecting, documenting and cleaning up discarded fishing line from the waterways and foreshore in her community in a bid to save aquatic animals and bird life from entanglement.
And her efforts have paid off.
Shalise, in year 5 at St Columba Anglican School, has been successful in securing two Seal the Loop fishing line collection bins and on September 16, was able to officially install them at popular fishing spots in Lake Cathie.
During the installation, she even assisted a pelican whose leg had become entangled in line.
The bins, she says, will make a significant difference in reducing the number of animals dying each year due to entanglement and are also a visible way to raise awareness about the impacts of aquatic rubbish.
“Over 1400 seals, including the endangered Australian sea lion, are killed annually across Australia through fishing line entanglement,” Shalise said.
“For the last year and a half I have spent several hours every weekend collecting discarded fishing line in and around the Lake Cathie beach and lake areas and am upset by how much I find.”
Her journey began after a visit to a marine centre in Coffs Harbour where, as a junior marine ranger for the day, she was introduced to the horrific impacts of fishing line on sea life.
“I met a dolphin there and her name was Calamity and she was rescued with 15 metres of fishing line around her tail. I really liked her so I thought I’d come home and do something,” Shalise said.
Shalise took her research to Port Macquarie-Hastings Council in April with a request for approval to install the fishing line collection bins locally.
After months of rallying, two bins were approved.
Her efforts and dedication raised the attention of local member Leslie Williams who has thrown her support behind the ‘eco warrior’. Mrs Williams sent Shalise a special parliamentary letter congratulating her on her achievement.
It is hoped council will support Shalise expand her program to include a community education component by sourcing grant funding through the Environmental Protection Authority.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand exactly how much damage that one little piece of fishing line left behind can do,” Shalise said.
“The bins are important to give people a place to put the fishing line they find on the beach so it is in a secure bin and won’t fly away.
“It also teaches people that may not know how much damage the line they throw away is doing.”
Shalise will empty the bins at Lake Cathie three times a week and document what she finds to council.
She hopes she will be able to install bins at fishing locations right across the Hastings in the future.