TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The debate over fishing regulations at the Sunshine Skyway Pier continued Thursday evening at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s meeting.

“I’m really hopeful that we’re not that far apart from what we want,” said Travis Thompson.

Thompson is with the conservation group, All Florida. According to the FWC, thousands of seabirds were rescued from entanglement at the pier over the last two years.

While anglers and others who make a living on the pier want to see limited restrictions, others see it in a different light.

“What we’ve seen over the decades is that it has been a bird death trap,” said Elise Bennett, the Florida and Caribbean Director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The FWC said severe entanglements are a serious issue at the pier, especially with gear with multiple hooks, like sabiki rigs, chicken rigs or treble hooks.

“These coastal birds have been suffering a long time,” Bennett explained. “And we have data to show that large numbers of them are being severely entangled and killed.”

There are two proposed options for regulations.

  1. Prohibiting gear with multiple hooks (sabiki rigs, chicken rigs, treble hooks, etc.) from dawn to 12 p.m. year-round.
  2. Prohibiting gear with multiple hooks (sabiki rigs, chicken rigs, treble hooks, etc.) all day, but just from November through February.

“No one wants to see dead pelicans,” said Thompson. “No one wants to see entangled pelicans. But we also want people to be able to go out and enjoy fishing.”

Thompson was hoping to see just a three-month restriction period but understands not everyone will get what they want.

“It’s also a really accessible fishing area for folks with disabilities,” Thompson said of the pier. “Or subsistence fishermen, people that don’t have a boat, or can’t afford to go out and enjoy the water in other ways.”

Bennett hopes the FWC puts restrictions in year-round.

“These birds have been struggling for decades,” Bennett said. “That can have population-level effects on our brown pelicans, on our egrets, many other birds that live in the nearby mangroves.”

The organization plans on reviewing the impact of whatever regulations they choose after two years. There’s no exact timeline for the implementation of restrictions, but there is still one final FWC rule hearing on July 19 or 20 before any decisions will be made.