Related video above: FWC seeks public input, considers new regulations at Skyway Fishing Pier
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) proposed new regulations to prevent injury and death to seabirds at the Skyway Fishing Pier State Park. However, wildlife advocates say the proposed changes don’t go far enough to protect them.
At the last public workshop, wildlife officials said more than 2,300 seabirds were rescued from the Skyway Fishing Pier over the last two years. The FWC detailed the proposed rule changes ahead of their meeting this month.
The proposed rule language states that, if approved, the commission would impose a pier fishing education requirement for anglers. It would also prohibit fishing rigs with multiple hooks from Nov. 1 through March 31 and would prohibit use of sabiki rigs year-round in part of the South Skyway Pier.
If approved, commission staff recommends revisiting the rules in two years to see if they need to be changed. Some wildlife advocates are asking the FWC to strengthen protections before the new rule hits the books.
“These half-measures fail to truly address the dire situation faced by the thousands of Bay-area birds being entangled and hooked at the Skyway Pier,” Elise Bennett, Florida Director at The Center for Biological Diversity, said in a release. “It’s a shame we have to push so hard to get our conservation commission to prevent the inhumane and wasteful deaths of pelicans and other beautiful coastal birds here in Tampa Bay. We urge the commission to strengthen these protections before finalizing the rule.”
The Center for Biological Diversity, along with Friends of the Pelicans (a team of volunteers who respond to injured birds on the pier), is asking the commission to implement the restrictions alongside the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which operates the pier. The advocacy groups want the commission to hire full-time bird rescuers, as well as banning fishing rigs with multiple hooks year-round.
If the new measures don’t work, the groups said wildlife officials should consider closing the pier seasonally, or closing the north end of the south pier year-round.
“We’re particularly concerned that the agency is only proposing protections for part of the year,” Jeanette Edwards, founder of Friends of the Pelicans, said. “Pelicans are hooked and killed all year long at the Skyway Pier and thus require year-long safeguards.”
The FWC will take up the proposed changes at a meeting on Feb. 21 in Jacksonville. The commission is accepting public comment on the matter until Feb. 16 at 5 p.m.