Water-Related News

Fishing restrictions to protect pelicans are enacted at the Sunshine Skyway south fishing pier

The moves are intended to protect pelicans, which nest nearby at rookeries along the mouth of Tampa Bay.

New rules were approved Wednesday to protect pelicans that become entangled in fishing lines at the Sunshine Skyway south fishing pier. The rules are a compromise between safeguarding the birds and the rights of anglers.

The new rules will prohibit the use of multiple hook fishing lines from November 15 through March 15 and limit anglers to no more than two fishing rigs at a time. Anglers would also have to take an education course on how not to ensnare the birds.

They're intended to protect pelicans lured from nearby nesting areas. Thousands of birds have been ensnared in fishing lines in the past several years and countless more have died from their injuries.

Also, the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will have a full-time staffer at the pier to help educate the public about the new rules and how they can avoid entangling pelicans.

"I think that this is a great beginning of trying to resolve this issue for both sides," said commission Chairman Rodney Barreto. "And everybody gave a little bit, and everybody gave up a little bit."

A move by vice chair Steven Hudson to ban multiple hooks year-round during the daylight hours when pelicans are active failed to get a second.

"This is a very challenging and contentious topic," said commission staffer Erica Burgess. "There is no universally agreed-upon resolution to this issue. However, staff's recommendation addresses the problem of entanglement, while continuing to allow fishing at this very special location."

The restrictions will be in effect for two years and would then be reviewed.