Anglers should avoid casting in the immediate vicinity of seabirds that are feeding or congregating together as it places them at risk for injury or death, the California Department of Fish and Game advised on Saturday.
According to Fish and Game, large schools of bait fish have recently been swimming close to the state's coastline. This has attracted groups of seabirds such as a sizeable group of located just outside Half Moon Bay.
The agency reports that in recent years, there have been hundreds of birds (including brown pelicans) injured or killed from becoming hooked or entangled with fishing line after chasing bait.
Pelicans are particularly at risk, according to Fish and Game, because fishing piers and jettys are natural roosting spots for the bird.
This issue has become a "serious problem," particularly at the Santa Cruz Pier and Monterey Wharf, the agency said, due to the proximity of fishing piers to seabirds' feeding grounds.
At , pelicans have also been seen lingering at the fish cleaning station, begging for food (see recent article and photo gallery on Half Moon Bay Patch).
The agency also advised anglers not to throw scraps to lingering pelicans while processing their fish at onsite cleaning stations, and take care to place all of the items they wish to dispose in a covered container.
When anglers clean their fish at the stations, it leaves the surface covered in fish oil, which is dangerous for pelicans as fish oil affects seabirds’ natural protection from cold ocean water through waterproofing and insulation. As a result, they become at risk for hypothermia when their skin comes into contact with cold water, the agency said.
“Saving them requires expensive capture, cleaning and care at a licensed rehabilitation facility," said Fish and Game Wildlife Biologist Esther Burkett. "It’s far easier to exercise caution and take steps to prevent the problem in the first place.”
Pelicans and seabirds should not be chased either, the agency said.
Additional strategies anglers can use to prevent seabirds from becoming hooked or entangled in fishing line can be reviewed here.
Anglers should report sightings of any bird which appears to be injured or otherwise compromised to the following organizations:
San Francisco Peninsula – Peninsula Humane Society: (650) 494-7283 or (650) 340-8200
Bay Area – International Bird Rescue: (707) 207-0380
Santa Cruz County – Native Animal Rescue: (831) 462-0726
Monterey County SPCA: 831-646-5534
Marin County – Wildcare: (415) 453-1000
Arcata – Marine Wildlife Care Center: (877) 823-6926
Morro Bay – Pacific Wildlife Care: 805-543-WILD (9453)
Statewide – Wild Care: 866-WILD-911
The local humane society or SPCA should be the contact in all other areas, the agency advised.