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Sunday, 21 April 2013 15:03

The Dangers of Discarded Fishing Line

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The Dangers of Discarded Fishing Line http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tangled_fishing_line_on_pier.JPG

WARNING: SOME OF THESE PICTURES ARE GRAHPIC AND MAY BE DISTURBING
A few weeks ago, I was fishing the south shore of Tampa Bay with my good friends Rik Llewellyn and Greg Becker. We were fishing opposite sides of a small mangrove island. I had just lost a pretty big snook which had taken my Heddon “Super Spook® Jr.” when Rik comes paddling around the far side right across where I had just lost this snook. As I yelled at him not to go across he just waved me off, saying “No, Bill - you need to get over here. We have a rescue mission to perform.”

What I saw made me sick. A pelican was hanging by its wing, completely tangled in fishing line. Upon further inspection, we noticed a fish hook stuck in its beak also. With a complete team effort (me holding the bird, Greg removing the hook and line, and Rik cutting the line off its wing) we freed the bird from this death trap and released it. Unfortunately for a few others, we didn’t get there in time.

Dangers of Fishing line

“Sometimes people suck,” said Greg. I couldn’t agree more. We removed more line - as much as we could reach - to only find three more dead pelicans. The three of us pondered the outcome for our new friend, hoping he would regain his strength and fly off. We spent about half an hour removing more line, and could only speculate where it had all come from. The Skyway fishing pier (the largest in world) would be my first guess. It’s very close to this island, and with the amount of fishing that takes place there and the large amount of bait that is attracted to the pier, it wouldn’t surprise me that pelicans are getting hooked. While this is purely speculation on my part, I would guess that once hooked, instead of reeling the bird back up to the pier anglers are just cutting the line and letting the bird fly away. Again, just speculation on my part. I do know that they have used fishing line collection points out there, but I guess anglers feel like they are doing the bird a favor by cutting the line and letting it fly off.

Fast forward a few weeks: I’m fishing the last tournament of the Paddle-Fishing.com’s Challenge Series,“Spooning the South Shore”. Anglers could only use the two spoons provided by Aqua Dream Living. I paddled one mile to an area that I have been fishing, and set about working the area with the spoons. Just before 9 am, I hooked up with a really nice fish. I felt a couple of head shakes, and then “pop” – the leader was frayed, like someone hit it with a belt sander. I cast my last spoon out and “BAM”, I got another hit. A little bit of drag runs out, then “SNAP”. “What the @#$%!!!!!” Another big fish had chewed through my leader, and just like that I’m out of the event - no more lures.

What does this have to do with dead birds and discarded fishing line? Suddenly finding myself with some extra time on my hands, I went back to the bird island and what I found made me sick. Yet another pelican was hung up in the mangroves. Without my partners there for support, I covered up (I’m a bit of a germophobe) and headed in to try to get this bird unstuck. Just as I was climbing into the tree, the pelican popped free, landed in the water, and thankfully flew off. I went to work removing all the used fishing line from the entire island (as much as I could reach). This small island has turned into a bird killing field; I found eight dead birds, mostly pelicans, and this isn’t counting the three we had found a few weeks back; one was banded and in an obvious spot.

Dangers of Fishing line

Dangers of Fishing line

Dangers of Fishing line

Dangers of Fishing line

Dangers of Fishing line

Dangers of Fishing line

It wasn’t all bad though; this island is a roosting place with lots of nests and a variety of sea birds there.

Dangers of Fishing line

Dangers of Fishing line

Dangers of Fishing line

Dangers of Fishing line

The bottom line is this: discard your used fishing line in a recycle container if available. If not, cut it up into small pieces so it cannot cause an entanglement trap. If you do hook a bird, DON’T cut the line and let it fly off. Capture the bird if possible, and remove the entanglement or call a rescue organization in your area. We owe it to the wildlife to do everything in our power to protect them from a slow and agonizing death.

Read 6309 times Last modified on Sunday, 21 April 2013 20:22

Comments  

 
+1 # Fishin Chef 2013-04-22 09:34
Excellent post and Robert did an AWESOME job with the camera. This is an eye opener if you weren't already aware. I an going to forward this out. Great job guys.
 
 
# Heywood 2013-04-22 09:46
Fishin Chef, Are you talking about the video that was posted on FaceBook? Robert did shoot that, these pictures for the article were taken by me.
 
 
# Heywood 2013-04-22 09:48
Here is a link to a video we shot of another rescue this past weekend.

http://vimeo.com/64491182
 
 
# FERAL ONE 2013-04-22 10:54
outstanding post ! i ran into that same situation over at pine lake but was too late to save the tricolored heron. really breaks your heart to see this. yall saved a ton more by removing the snagging hazard. good on ya !
 
 
# reelkayakfishing 2013-04-22 11:12
This problem exists everywhere nowadays. It is so upsetting! I wrote a similar article for Anglers for Conservation in the beginning of the month. We need to keep getting the word out there on how to be an enlightened angler! Great job!
 
 
# smj190 2013-04-22 15:17
Very moving article. Thank you for posting. Hopefully, we can make change or at least a small dent in this abuse of wildlife.
 
 
# MontyMurdoch 2013-04-24 20:44
Powerful article. Thank you for writing this piece. It is timely and we need reminding on a regular basis about this topic.
 
 
# Jennifer 2013-04-26 21:22
Thank you for rescuing that bird! So sad to see all the others that didn't make it :sad:

Next time though you may want to consider taking the bird to a wildlife rehabber for a full evaluation and to treat any resulting wounds, dehydration, starvation, etc. Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary is one such place you could have brought that bird and it is in Indian Shores, FL. They have a website with contact info, etc. and do everything for free. I hope you can go back and check the island periodically to save other birds. Bring a pet carrier though next time, so you can transport any you rescue easily.

Please keep up the good work!
 
 
# Heywood 2013-04-30 11:58
Quoting Jennifer:
Thank you for rescuing that bird! So sad to see all the others that didn't make it :sad:

Next time though you may want to consider taking the bird to a wildlife rehabber for a full evaluation and to treat any resulting wounds, dehydration, starvation, etc. Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary is one such place you could have brought that bird and it is in Indian Shores, FL. They have a website with contact info, etc. and do everything for free. I hope you can go back and check the island periodically to save other birds. Bring a pet carrier though next time, so you can transport any you rescue easily.

Please keep up the good work!


Jennifer,
Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary was closed down. As far as I know its still closed down.
 

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