Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for August 2008

August 27, 2008

Discarded fishing tackle a monumental mess

At IBRRC we’ve been witnessing first hand the mess that discarded fishing tackle causes on the lives of aquatic birds. Our recent response to brown pelicans in Santa Cruz and Monterey showed a high percentage of birds injured after being caught up in hooks and fishing line that are so much a part of the marine environment.

Not surprising there’s some disturbing statistics coming from the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project:

Since May 2006, the California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project has retrieved nearly 11 tons of gear from around the California Channel Islands (Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Catalina). As well, the project has cleaned more than 1400 pounds of recreational fishing gear off public fishing piers from Santa Cruz to Imperial Beach including more than 1 million feet of fishing line. Several of these piers now have fishing line recycling bins, to encourage proper disposal of unwanted hooks and microfilament. See the full report

And don’t even get us started on the mess that discarded plastics – including toys and cigarette lighters – leaves on the ocean. Read: Birds suffer as world’s oceans become a big garbage can

All is not lost: 10 Things You Can Do To Save the Oceans

August 27, 2008

Good news: Krill on the rebound

In a sea of bad there’s some really good news: Krill and the cold currents that helps sustain this valuable food source is finally showing some improvement. Krill is integral to the ocean food chain as its the primary food source for many marine mammals and fish.

In a recent San Francisco Chronicle story, scientists studying the Northern Pacific Ocean currents are seeing an abundance of nutrient rich currents:

For the time being, many species of sea birds, fish and marine mammals are flourishing, and the reason lies largely in an unexpected change in two features of the ocean: The California current, flowing down the Pacific coast from Canada to Mexico, is colder than it has been in years, and strong northwest winds have increased the upwelling of cold water from just above the sea floor to the surface.

Read the complete story in the San Francisco Chronicle

August 22, 2008

Pelican response update: Current numbers

The influx of pelicans from Santa Cruz and Monterey areas has slowed down at IBRRC’s two bird rescue centers. The most recent birds are mostly fishing tackle injuries from the Santa Cruz/Monterey area and have problems as we assume many have been injured for days or weeks and coming into the center in poor condition. At the San Pedro center, we’re still getting a more regular flow of pelicans, about ten a week.

And there’s more good news, dedicated staff and volunteers have worked hard to rehabilitate these remarkable birds. Many have been released back into the wild. (See photo above)

Since June 15th IBRRC has taken in more than 150 endangered brown pelicans. Between the two California bird centers, 339 birds have been cared for since the beginning of 2008.

Here’s the current numbers:

Current totals in house: 87

Cordelia: 50
San Pedro: 37

Total Fishing tackle injuries: 125

Cordelia: 75
San Pedro: 50

Total Released: 140

Cordelia: 66
San Pedro: 74

Total intakes in 2008: 339

Cordelia: 164
San Pedro: 175

As always, IBRRC is appealing for public support to help us pay the ENORMOUS fish bill for this response. It will easily hit $40,000 by the month’s end.

Thanks to all who already supported our efforts!

Media reports:

Santa Cruz Sentinel: Pelican injuries take a toll

Also see the video

San Jose Mercury News story

August 11, 2008

Video: Pelicans feeding at Capitola Wharf

Here’s another awesome video of young pelicans feeding at Capitola Wharf in Santa Cruz County from videographer extraordinaire, Rebecca Dymytryk Titus. The wharf is now closed to fisherman. Earlier in the week officials finally had the gumption to shut the pier to prevent further injury to pelicans becoming entangled in fishing line and hooks.

IBRRC is still treating 60 injured pelicans caught in fishing line in a standoff with local fishermen.

Read the earlier posting

August 8, 2008

Pelican update: Video of thousands of birds

From Rebecca Dmytryk Titus, who is helping coordinate the Pelican response in Santa Cruz County:

We arrived at the Cement Ship fishing pier on Seacliff Beach to find thousands of birds near shore feeding on bait fish (see video above). We did see three pelicans with line, none we could approach for a successful capture. It was good to see the ship was closed to fishing and people, for the most part, we’re letting the birds be.

Found a tangled or weak bird that needs immediate care? Please call the wildlife hotline at 866-WILD-911.

IBRRC is treating a high number of young pelicans caught in fishing line and long-line hooks. Both of our centers are overwhelmed with birds in car. The fish bill alone for this crisis will cost us $20,000. If you can help us with a donation, please do so. Donate now or adopt-a-pelican. Thanks!

August 8, 2008

Fishing pier finally closed at Capitola Wharf

After pressure from locals and wildlife rescuers, the Capitola Wharf was finally shutdown for fishing in an effort to prevent pelicans from becoming entangled in fishing line and hooks.

IBRRC has been rescuing a lot of young brown pelicans along Santa Cruz County beaches after thousands of the birds descended on area fishing areas. The cement ship fishing pier in Aptos was closed earlier in the week to prevent more carnage as pelicans got tangled in fishing lines and were snared by long line fish hooks.

See the ABC-TV report

Read earlier post: Crisis continues for Brown Pelicans along coast

August 7, 2008

Crisis continues for Brown Pelicans along coast

In the last few days our Northern California rehabilitation center, located in Fairfield, received another 25 brown pelicans from the Santa Cruz area. That makes a total of 137 pelicans this year in Northern California alone and 115 of those pelicans have come in since June 15th! Until recently they have been mostly young birds that are learning to fish and are feeding on large schools of anchovies and sardines that are moving along the California coastline. As of today, more than 30 of the birds that have come to our center are suffering from injuries due to fishing hooks and monofilament line entanglement.

Overview of the Current Crisis Situation

For those of you that don’t remember, in 2002 IBRRC received 200 injured pelicans from Santa Cruz within a month because large numbers of brown pelicans were feeding on anchovies under the Santa Cruz piers. Fisherman fishing from the piers can catch up to five small fish at a time by basically creating a long line system where each line has up to five leads with hooks on the ends of them. The lines are dropped from very high piers and are often pulled up with up to 5 wiggling fish on them. Pelicans see this as a free meal and grab them, becoming entangled. The fishermen get annoyed, cut the lines and then the pelicans are found on the wharf and local beaches with injuries and entanglements. This is happening right now!

In 2002 IBRRC worked with local government and California Fish & Game to temporarily close the Santa Cruz wharf to fishing until the bait fish moved out of the area. This tactic was successful and ended the fishing tackle entanglements. We are again asking the regulatory agencies to temporarily close these areas to fishing. This year the problem is much worse as three different piers are being used for fishing and literally thousands of brown pelicans are feeding on the fish. Two of the piers are now closed but one remains open to fishing. One fisherman complained to reporters that he is catching a pelican every 20 minutes and cutting the line.

Media report: ABC-TV: Pelicans getting fatally snared in Capitola

IBRRC as the Hub for west coast pelican rehabilitation

IBRRC has the largest facilities and most advanced program for pelican and sea bird rehabilitation along the west coast of the US. Each of our rehabilitation centers is equipped with a one hundred foot long pelican flight aviary. These aviaries are specifically built for pelicans and provide them flight rehabilitation. Each aviary can hold up to 75 birds at a time and both are in full use right now.

Your support is desperately needed

As I write this appeal there are 70 brown pelicans at our Northern California center, in Fairfield, receiving treatment for fishing tackle injuries and other problems and an equal amount at our Southern California facility in San Pedro. Each pelican eats up to 5 pounds of fish a day. The low estimate of a single pelican’s cost to rehabilitate is $20.00 per day. In truth, the cost is much more for those that require antibiotics and further care. I am asking for your financial support again to help us in this crisis situation.

We have set up many ways for our supporters to contribute. Donations in any amount you wish are always welcome. You may Adopt a Pelican or become a Pelican Partner. Becoming a Pelican Partner provides you with the opportunity to receive a private tour of one of our facilities and join our staff or volunteers at the release of the pelican that you have adopted and helped. I urge you to help us rehabilitate these pelicans. Share this information with friends and encourage their involvement. Help us: Adopt-a-Pelican or Donate

Thank you from all the staff and volunteers at IBRRC for your help.

Jay Holcomb

Executive Director
International Bird Rescue Research Center, IBRRC

August 6, 2008

850+ Penguins stranded and hungry in Brazil

You may have seen the recent articles about the juvenile Magellanic Penguins showing up on Brazilian beaches malnourished and dying. IBRRC is working with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)to manage IFAW’s Penguin Network to ensure excellent care of oiled and sick penguins in South America.

To date, there have been more than 850 penguins collected, almost all juveniles. The birds are coming into care in extremely poor body condition and many have died.

There are two groups in this part of Brazil that normally work with marine mammals who have started taking these stranded penguins into care with the hope of rehabilitation and release.

•In Salvador – Bahia, NE Brazil, Instituto Mamíferos Aquáticos (IMA) has received 500+ live juvenile penguins so far. Only 2 were adults. As of 6 August 06 ≈ 300 are alive.

•In Vitória – Espírito Santo, Southeastern Brazil, Instituto Orca has received some 250+ penguins and it is believed that there are around 90 still alive.

According to penguin researcher, Dr. Dee Boersma, there is a flow of warmer water (1C higher than normal) which has caused the juvenile penguins to keep going north, past their usual range, where they are unable to find adequate food. There is always a high mortality rate for first year birds but this increased northernly range and lack of available food had increased the normal mortality rate for this group of penguins. Almost all of the penguins being found on beaches in the north of Brazil have been juveniles and since they are starving, they come into care in an extremely debilitated state.

The local groups working with penguins have utilized area pools to swim the penguins and monitor blood values of the birds. They also are using penguin feeding protocols developed by the IFAW/IBRRC team.

Also see: Penguins as Marine Sentinels by Dee Boersma

August 6, 2008

Record numbers of Pelicans on Farallon Islands

There’s tell tale research from scientists studying Brown Pelicans on the Farallon Islands: The numbers are way up.

Researchers at the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) counted a new peak of 5,856 pelicans on the the islands. The low was in 1968 when only 363 pelicans were counted.

“Only in 1984 were there counts over 5,000 on the island,” said PRBO biologist Russ Bradley. “The birds have now covered the marine terrace and are roosting in huge numbers in many other areas of the island as well. This number may increase, as pelican abundance usually peaks in the fall.”

This may explain the huge numbers of pelicans spotted foraging for fish in Northern California. The pelicans have been colliding and competing with fishermen especially along the Santa Cruz County coast where they’ve congregating near fishing piers. IBRRC has been treating hundreds of injured, starving and sick pelicans since mid-year.

Pelicans have made a major comeback after facing extinction from exposure to DDT other man-made factors in California 40 years ago. This year the U.S. government is leaning on removing the majestic bird from the endangered species list.

Read the full story in the Marin IJ or see the PRBO website

August 6, 2008

From the frontlines: Pelican rescue update

Injured pelicans caught up in fishing line and other tackle continue to be picked up along Santa Cruz County beaches today.

After a lot of calls from the public, local wildlife groups and media attention, the California State Fish and Game has closed one pier to fishermen. The cement ship in Capitola is now off limits due to the high number of foraging pelicans in the area. The Capitola Wharf is expected to be closed on Wednesday until the high numbers of pelicans moves out of the area.

From our own Rebecca Dmytryk who is helping organize the pelican rescue operation in Santa Cruz County:

Capitola police are now involved and are asking fishermen to pull up their lines on the Capitola Wharf. There will be a meeting tomorrow morning and they will decide what action they will take – perhaps closing the pier for fishing only, allowing businesses to stay open. Contact with police was made by WildRescue volunteers Mari and Klaus Kloepell who have rescued a number of pelicans this afternoon. I will make contact with Captain Mayer of Capitola police in the morning and provide an update. Thanks to Wayne Freedman with ABC for doing the story that has helped up make headway here to get protection for these birds.

International Bird Rescue Research Center (Fairfield) admitted nine more pelicans from Santa Cruz yesterday, August 4th. Each one was suffering injuries from entanglement in fishing line and hooks. Birders are being asked to report any sightings to local rescuers. The toll-free wildlife hotline for California 866-WILD-911 or by calling directly 831-869-6241.

Caring for these injured birds in expensive, if you can help with a donation, IBRRC would be so very grateful. Adopt-a-pelican or donate whatever you can spare online now

August 6, 2008

Media picks up unfolding Pelican story

Check out these latest media reports:

ABC-TV: Pelicans getting fatally snared in Capitola

Daily Democrat: Pelicans nursed back to health

August 5, 2008

More pelicans tangled in fishing line & hooks

IBRRC admitted nine pelicans from Santa Cruz yesterday. Each one was suffering injuries from entanglement in fishing line and hooks. While it is not surprising for the marine and aquatic bird specialists to receive large numbers of pelicans in a day, especially this time of year, the oddity is that these casualties of fishing had come from one area, Santa Cruz.

They have seen this before. Back in 2002, International Bird Rescue received 200 young pelicans from Santa Cruz within a one-month period. They found that fishermen off Santa Cruz Pier, at the wharf, were targeting schooling anchovies using what’s called a longline – one strand of fishing line with multiple hooks. As the fishermen reel in their wriggling fish, pelicans, mostly young, inexperienced birds, grab the prey and become snared in the line. The lines often break or they are cut. The pelicans fly off trailing line and often with imbedded hooks. In 2002 state agencies closed the wharf temporarily until the bait-fish moved on. Read news article

Yesterday, rescuers confirmed sightings of this type of fishing going on off the cement ship at Seacliff Beach in Capitola and off of the Santa Cruz Pier. Dead pelicans were washing up snared in line, and a number of still flighted birds were spotted entangled and in need of help. Update: California Fish & Games has reportedly closed Seacliff Pier (the cement ship area) to fishing.

Today, rescuers will return to the area to try and catch the injured animals. Help is expected from the California Department of Fish & Game and US Fish & Wildlife Services in dealing with this matter. Citizens are being asked to report sightings to local rescuers – they can find contact information through a toll-free wildlife hotline for California 866-WILD-911 or by calling rescue coordinator Rebecca Dmytryk, 831-869-6241. PLEASE DO NOT CALL IBRRC! Thanks.

Also see:

Fishing around pelicans: Some suggestions


August 3, 2008

Helping us get the word out: LA Times story

The Los Angeles Times has a really terrific story this weekend about our efforts with young starving pelicans at our Southern California center. Julie King, IBRRC’s San Pedro center manager is quoted near perfectly:

…”Will they survive after we let them go? Hard to say,” King said. “But I do know this; we are giving these birds a second chance to get back in the wild and figure it all out…”

Worth reading: Bird rehab gives young pelicans a second chance

August 2, 2008

Starving young pelican numbers grow: Help!

The number of young pelicans sick and starving arriving at IBRRC’s two bird centers continues to grow.

Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s executive director, has issued a plea to the public for help in treating these birds. The fish bill alone is at least $750 a day between the two centers. You can help by adopting a pelican or becoming a pelican partner to assist us in our long-term support for these endangered animals. Read his urgent appeal

More than 150 pelicans have been delivered to the Cordelia/Fairfield and San Pedro Centers in the past six weeks. Dedicated staff and the wonderful volunteers at both centers continue to assist these wonderful birds.

Most of the birds are weak due to lack of food and some have more serious injuries, according to Holcomb. He says it’s not uncommon for the centers to treat ailing pelicans during the summer months. This year the numbers are definitely up and partly this can be attributed a successful nesting season for pelicans in the Channel Islands.

Some good news

The good news today is that some of the earlier arrivals have been stabilized with fish and TLC and are being released. Six California Brown Pelicans were turned back to the wild Saturday afternoon at Fort Baker’s Horseshoe Cove in Sausalito.

Media reports:

Influx of rescued pelicans in California: ABC News

Pelicans nursed back to health: Vacaville Reporter

Pelicans released back to the wild: The Daily Breeze photos