Barrier Island officials lobbied to save sea birds from fishing-line fates

acastillo@bradenton.comJuly 17, 2014 

HOLMES BEACH -- The topic of saving birds flew into discussion during the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting Wednesday.

In a presentation at Holmes Beach City Hall, at-large Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore brought forth the idea of an ordinance to prohibit multi-barbed fishing lines from being used at city- and county-owned piers.

Beside her stood island resident Jeannie Bystrom, who is behind an informal group campaigning with the theme: "Don't Cut the Line."

The crew works to save birds in Manatee County whose lives have been threatened after getting caught in fishing lines.

Whitmore, who showed images of birds in distress, has brought the issue before the Manatee County Commission but no action has been taken yet on the county level.

"My whole goal is to save all these birds from getting killed unnecessarily," Whitmore said. "And as you see these pictures, it's just devastating and it's mainly because when people are fishing, they're afraid to reel the bird in or they can't and they just cut the line and these poor birds suffer and they starve out there and

they end up strangulated."

Whitmore said county and island officials should work together on this issue, citing an ordinance from the city of Naples, which prohibits the use of fishing lures with two or more hooks sharing a single shank.

Bystrom said something similar could be adopted in Manatee County.

The women showed a video with more images of birds tangled in fish lines -- some even stuck in trees after trying to fly away.

"This is reality. This is what we come across every day and every week," Bystrom said, adding her crew has made more than 100 rescues in six months around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge -- just on Sundays. "If we were at the Skyway every day, those numbers would be astronomical."

"What Naples did is a really good first step. They know the problem with the multiple hook lures," she said. "I think (prohibiting) the multiple hook is a really good start because it does so much damage to these birds."

Longboat Key Mayor Jim Brown, a self-described avid fisherman, said he has unintentionally caught birds while fishing.

"The birds are attracted to fishermen," he said. "You go out fishing and the birds come to you and it's hard to cast."

"You can't outlaw fishing," responded Bystrom. "But we can at least try and work on the fishing tackle that hurts them the worst."

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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