TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is hosting a virtual workshop Wednesday evening on potential changes to fishing rules at the Skyway Fishing Pier State Park.
FWC is exploring rule changes that they say could prevent entanglement, injury, and mortality of pelicans and other seabirds at the pier. At the last public workshop, officials said more than 3,300 seabirds had to be rescued from the Skyway Fishing Pier in the last two years.
Since 2016, the state agency worked on outreach and education efforts, but despite those actions, they say severe entanglements continue to occur.
The potential fishing regulations include a ban on any hook and line gear with more than one hook attached, such as sabiki rigs and chicken rigs. The FWC is also considering a ban on any multiple hook use, such as treble hooks. The state agency is also considering limiting the number of rods each angler can use while at the state park. The hope is that the gear restrictions will reduce the frequency of severe entanglements taking place.
Fisherman have mixed feelings about the possible rule changes.
“Sabiki rigs, them banning it all together, I would say no. All fishermen use them,” said one fisherman visiting from Michigan. “I guess just watch where you are fishing, be in control of your lines and if you have three rods going with multiple leaders in each rod, and there are a lot of birds, probably pull a couple of rods in,” said Kirk Lobbestael.
“The birds need to be protected, there’s no doubt about it, but the fishermen need to be able to fish,” said Bill Hescox. “There’s got to be a happy medium there somewhere to try to keep everybody happy,” he continued.
Nonprofit Friends of the Pelicans has advocated for new fishing regulations to protect the pelicans at the pier for years. A full-time rescuer they hired has rescued an average of 1700 pelicans each year.
“We are going to be asking for a ban of those two very damaging hooks. They cause injuries to the pelicans that are not recoverable, so they have to be euthanized. They rip ligaments in half, they tear tendons and a lot of times they are ripped to the point they are not even able to be stitched up and they die or have to be euthanized,” said Kim Begay with Friends of the Pelicans.
The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. and you can join here: virtual workshop.
You can submit comments by clicking here.
If you can’t attend, a recording will be posted online.