Saturday, October 24, 2009

Avid Angler? Be Responsible!

When it comes to fishing, there are several of us at WBS that never seem to get our fill.  

There are many conversations about where we’ve been fishing, what did we catch, what baits, lures or rigs have been tried, and when we will be going fishing next.  Funny thing is that there are more women here who love to fish, than there are men, and the competition is pretty fierce for bragging rights!  It is also quite rewarding to see a prize catch make a meal or two for one of our eagles. 

There has been much conversation of late that has really fired me up, enough to get on my soapbox.  It seems as though each and every time any of us at WBS have gone out fishing, we have retrieved a great deal of what other anglers have left behind.  I am not just talking about fish, here (ha, ha).  But seriously, each of us have told stories about the numerous lures, sinkers, hooks, bobbers, and most importantly, a multitude of fishing line we have found.

To give you a recent example of people’s imprint and carelessness, particularly as it applies to fishing, we just had a Bald Eagle admitted to our Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital that had become entangled in a trot line and was dangling from a tree.  This majestic creature, which depends primarily on fish for food, has sustained a wing injury and the jury is still out as to whether or not it will recover enough to be released back into the wild.   There is a reason that the conservation regulations require trotlines to be checked on a regular schedule.

A bald eagle found entangled and dangling in a trotline
We have also encountered pelicans and herons that have suffered similar injuries, again, due to irresponsible anglers who strip line from their reels and then leave it on the shoreline or in the water.  That is what infuriates me.  These injuries could have been prevented, had anglers picked up after themselves.  It is something some people never think twice about.  The solution to the fishing line problem is as simple as keeping a small bag in your pocket when fishing.  If you need to strip off line, put it in the bag and dispose of it properly at the end of your trip instead of leaving it on the shoreline or in the water.

A Great Blue Heron with fishing line wrapped around his beak.  This bird probably starved to death.
Yes, it is irritating that people leave behind their trash, polluting our streams and rivers, which the very creatures we are fishing for are dependent upon.  Allow me to take a moment to mention an even bigger picture here.  The food chain depends greatly on clean rivers and streams, from invertebrates to fish, mammals and birds of the air.  I am talking about a subject you will hear more and more about at WBS--watersheds.  The watershed affects the big picture, not only for wildlife, but for humankind as well.  Animals and humans alike require clean water for survival.  We have a choice whether or not to release or keep the fish we catch.  Is what we catch even fit for consumption?  Our wildlife is dependent on it, and doesn’t have the luxury of choice. 

I encourage you, whether you fish or not, to act if you see fishing line, equipment, or even trash near our streams and rivers.  Please pick it up and dispose of it properly.  You may be preventing the need for yet another wildlife rescue, be it a bird, mammal or sea creature.  The domino effect can spiral out of control.  Man is a direct contributor.  Man can take the necessary steps toward a positive change, which ultimately affects man in the end, after all.  And when I say “Man” – I’m not referring to a faceless person in the crowd – I mean you and me.

Submitted by Billie Baumann, Outreach Coordinator, World Bird Sanctuary.

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