The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 6 - November 4, 2009

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How to land a seabird

From the October 28, 2009 Issue
Reel time

Our Seabirds explains the proper way to handle
an entangled sea bird. She is assisted by
Ann Paul, of Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries.

On Oct. 17, members of Sarasota Bay Watch teamed with Save Our Seabirds and Audubon Coastal Islands Sanctuaries to conduct a monofilament cleanup of bird rookeries in Sarasota Bay. The event was organized to remove fishing line from mangroves during the season when birds are not nesting. The event was a great success despite the arrival of a strong cold front that roiled local waters. During the morning event participants collected yards of line from Roberts Bay to Manatee County.

The day’s activities began at Save Our Seabirds on City Island, where Lee Fox instructed members of the group on the proper method of disentangling a seabird once it gets caught in fishing line. She also showed participants the gruesome results of birds that are mutilated or killed by fishing line. It was a stark reminder of the responsibility we have as anglers to protect our feathered friends.

I had the pleasure of spending the morning with Dr. Ann Hodgson and Ann Paul, from Audubon’s Florida Coastal Island Sanctuaries, and Dr. Jay Leverone, lead scientist with the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. During the morning, we picked line from the mangroves, retrieved a discarded cast net and observed many birds roosting and feeding deep within the tangle of limbs and roots.

Anglers that fish the coastal waters of Florida will invariably come into contact with the seabirds that inhabit the estuaries of Florida. Often that encounter is deadly to seabirds because anglers don’t know the basics of caring for our feathered friends. Birds live here. It’s their home, and often they actually aid anglers in their search for fish. The birds get into trouble when they either come into contact with discarded fishing line in mangroves, or they take line to their roosts after becoming hooked by fishermen that don’t know how to properly release them.

If you hook a bird while fishing, make sure that you fight it to the boat with a properly set drag to prevent it from breaking free while trailing line. This is a death sentence for the bird when it returns to \its roost at night. If you work the bird to the boat as you would with a prized fish, itcan be held by the side of the head while the hook is removed. Care should be taken with all birds, especially ones that have sharp beaks. If the angler is careful, a towel can be placed over the bird in order to get control of it.

Remember to handle birds carefully as they have very light hollow bones. Cautiously unwind the line from wings and feet and then check the bird carefully before releasing it. If you see a hooked or tangled bird in an active rookery, don’t approach it as its young may be startled and fall from the nest.

The incidence of anglers hooking birds can be reduced by following a few simple rules. First, never feed birds. This bad habit will train birds to look for a handout and leads to trouble for the birds and anglers. Secondly, while you’re fishing be aware of birds that might be eying your bait. It’s easy to pull the bait out of harm’s way at the last second before a gull or tern dives on it.

Taking care of the environment that feeds our passion is every angler’s responsibility. Follow these simple bird guidelines – be aware of their presence, take care in handling them when you do come into contact and never feedthem. Make sure you pay attention and when you see a bird in trouble; spread the word to other fishermen. If you see a bird in distress, call Save Our Seabirds at 941-388-3010 or Audubon Coastal Island Sanctuaries at 813-623-6826. You can find out about future events or join Sarasota Bay Watch by going to

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