PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Seabirds are a part of what makes our Tampa Bay area so special, but their biggest threat is something man-made.
Christina Chilbert with Seaside Seabird Sanctuary said fishing line entanglements injure, trap, and kill seabirds, especially pelicans.
"It's actually one of the most frequent injuries we see with birds in Pinellas and parts of Hillsborough," said Chilbert.
Chilbert said the amount of entangled fishing line that is ingested or wrapped around birds is disturbing.
Last year, nearly 2,000 birds came into Seaside Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores with fishing line entanglement injuries. Their bird hospital is often full of birds that are hurt from fishing line. Many times they are able to treat the bird and help it recover. But sometimes birds are so injured that they cannot return to the wild and have to live at the sanctuary.
But there are people hoping to prevent this from happening. Tampa Bay Watch volunteers went out to the Skyway Fishing Pier to remove hanging fishing line from parts of the old bridge.
"Unfortunately when they cast it gets stuck on an old span of the old Skyway bridge," said Rachel Arndt with Tampa Bay Watch.
Equipped with poles that had saws on the end and nets to catch the hooks and line, a couple of dozen volunteers took on the extremely difficult task of weaving through the narrow concrete pilings to pull the fishing line down.
In March, volunteers removed 24,000 feet of entangled fishing line hanging from the pier.
"You can imagine how detrimental that could be for wildlife," said Arndt.
Bird advocates say if you are fishing and hook a pelican, do not cut the line, they say cutting the line is a death sentence for birds.
"I can’t tell you how many birds we find hanging in the mangrove this time of year just because someone cut the line after hooking a bird," said Chilbert.
Volunteers say to protect seabirds you should use the fishing line in disposable areas, pick up trash even when it's not yours, and if you do hook a bird reel it in and remove the hook.
"Be a good human, do the right thing," said Chilbert.
If you are fishing and hook a pelican, FWC says to Reel, Remove, Release. Click here for a link on what to do.
If you need help call the injured bird hotline: 727-391-6211
And for more information about Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, Click here.