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Mind Your Line partners urge responsible fishing

By SCCF - | Apr 21, 2021

Mind Your Line, a collaborative effort among Sanibel-Captiva conservation organizations, is asking fishing enthusiasts — especially users of the Punta Rassa Boat Ramp — to use smart practices to protect the region’s brown pelicans.

The pelican is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty and included in the state’s Imperiled Species Management Plan, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation reported. Nonetheless, a leading cause of lethal injury in pelicans and other shorebirds is fishing hooks and monofilament entanglement.

The pandemic led to an increase in anglers on the water seeking outdoor, socially distanced recreation or fishing to feed their families in the face of economic hardship. As a result, many boat ramps and fishing piers have seen an uptick in the number of injured and entangled wildlife, particularly pelicans.

As a member of Mind Your Line, the SCCF is working with partners to spread the word about proper fishing practices to reduce harmful impacts on birdlife. The Punta Rassa ramp at the east end of the Sanibel Causeway has been the site of a steady stream of cases because a group of pelicans, mostly juveniles, hang around the docks and ramp. As boats return to the ramp and fish-cleaning station, the pelicans gather and beg for handouts. Many of the birds are suffering from embedded fishing hooks or monofilament entanglement. Others have torn pouches from trying to swallow bony fish carcasses.

Volunteers, county parks staff and good Samaritans have been able to corral and deliver them to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife for treatment, but often the injuries are too severe for survival.

SCCF

A recent incident involved a juvenile brown pelican that became trapped in the cleaning station’s carcass grinding machine. SCCF’s shorebird biologist and intern returned to the ramp to gain a better understanding of the situation. They observed countless individuals with embedded hooks and pouch injuries. On two out of three recent visits, the team captured hooked birds for delivery to CROW.

Though there is signage indicating it is illegal to feed wildlife, people still do it by improperly disposing of carcasses and bait in the water. For the proper ways to discard monofilament and fishing gear and how to unhook a bird, visit the Mind Your Line Website at www.mindyourline.org.

For questions, email mindyourline@gmail.com.

TIPS FOR RESPONSIBLE FISHING

– Do not feed fish scraps to the pelicans or discard carcasses in the water.

– If caught on a line, reel the bird in slowly to prevent further injury. Place a net under the pelican as soon as you are able to reduce stress and commotion, which can cause more injury.

– Remove the hook by cutting the barb and pushing it backwards to remove.

– Release the pelican if it is healthy. If it is not, contact CROW at 239-472-3644.

Source: Mind Your Line