The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 52 - October 12, 2011

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Sarasota Bay Watch event protects seabirds

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Members of Sarasota Bay Watch, Save Our Seabirds and
Audubon Florida Coastal Island Sanctuaries pose for a
group shot before the annual clean up. The event was
hosted by the Sarasota Sailing Squadron.

On Oct. 1, members of Sarasota Bay Watch teamed with Save Our Seabirds, and Audubon Coastal Islands Sanctuaries to conduct a monofilament clean up 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 an early 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 the Sarasota Sailing Squadron's beautiful facilities on City Island where Ann Paul, of Audubon, instructed members of the group on how to disentangle seabirds that had been caught in fishing line. Emphasis was placed on safety with the reminder that birds wouldn't understand that participants were trying to help them. Fortunately no entangled birds were found, but yards of monofilament and braided lines were removed from the mangroves, where they posed a real risk for nesting seabirds.

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 if anglers don't know the basics of avoiding contact with or caring for hooked birds. 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 come in contact with discarded fishing line in the mangroves, or they take line to their roosts after becoming hooked.

If you hook a bird while fishing, make sure that you fight it to the boat just like you would a trophy fish to prevent it from breaking your 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 it can be held while the hook is removed. Care should be taken with all birds, especially ones that have sharp beaks.

Follow these simple rules and the outcome will be good for the angler and the bird. Placing a towel over the bird's head will calm it and protect the angler from sharp bills. Handle a bird carefully as it has 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 if it's nesting season. Often a well meaning human can cause more harm than good by causing startled young birds to 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 handouts and leads to trouble for the birds and anglers. Secondly, while you're fishing, be aware of birds that might be eyeing 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 guidelines: be aware of their presence, take care in handling them, and never feed birds. If you see a bird in distress and it's not nesting season, you can free it. If it swims or flies away on its own, that's all you'll need to do. If you believe it is too weak to recover on its own, take it to Save Our Seabirds on City Island or call (941) 388-3010. Audubon Coastal Island Sanctuaries can be reached by calling 813-794-3784. You can find out about future events or join Sarasota Bay Watch by going to

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