Pelicans Are at Risk from Fishing Gear
• 'Barbless' Hooks Can Help Prevent More Seabird Deaths
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
The California brown pelicans are one of Malibu's most impressive and most loved avian residents, but the International Bird Rescue, a non-profit organization that rescues and rehabilitates sea birds, is warning that life-threatening fishing line and tackle-related injuries are skyrocketing among the California brown pelican population. The San Francisco Bay Wildlife Center has reported admitting more than 221 Brown Pelicans since June 1, a press release states.
"Life has not been easy for the California Brown Pelican population since it was depleted through exposure to DDT over 50 years ago. Now with Pelican numbers rebounding, they are coming into conflict with people on a scale never before seen. The toll on the nonprofit is extraordinary, straining both human and financial resources. As quickly as the birds are rehabilitated and released into the wild, more arrive. Its San Francisco Bay Center currently has 76 Pelicans in care, and its Los Angeles Center has another 35," the release states.
According to the IBR, the pelican's opportunistic feeding behavior, diving to grab fish as they are being pulled out of the water by fishers, make them regular victims of entanglement in fishing line and severe hook wounds.
The hooks can pierce bills, causing long tears in their pouches that make it impossible for them to feed. Hooks can also be swallowed. Surgeries to repair these wounds are currently being scheduled back-to-back from 9 in the morning until as late as 10 at night.
So far, most of the injured birds have come from the Central Coast. However, local fishers are encouraged to switch to barbless hooks, to dispose of line properly, and to avoid casting when seabirds are in the area. Detailed "unhooking" instructions are available at www.seabirdsanctuary.com/Unhook_A_Bird.html.
Malibuites can help prevent line and tackle injuries by collecting lines and hooks in the water or on land, and cutting the line into small pieces before placing it in a trash receptacle. Seagulls, terns, cormorants, loons and even sea lions can also become entangled in fishing line.
"We share our coast with wild animals such as the California Brown Pelican, which after 30 years of being listed as an endangered species is now facing another human-caused situation, fishing tackle entanglements. It is not only our responsibility but everyone's duty to help these magnificent birds," says International Bird Rescue's Director Emeritus, Jay Holcomb.
Volunteers willing to donate time or money can contact the International Bird Rescue at www.Bird-Rescue.org.