Pelican Protection Alliance

Volunteers and conservation groups come together with fishing people and officials to find solutions to a crisis. They organize to save wildlife, promote education and better policies.

Meeting notice – Jan 4

Photographs from Native Animal Rescue

Press Announcement and other news stories about the issue

Pelican Grief Metro story

Notes from Sept 19, 2001 meeting

How You Can Help

LA Times Story Pier Fishing Taking Toll on Pelicans

Native Animal Rescue (in progress)


Native Animal Rescue volunteers help a pelican snagged by a fishing hook and line at the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. Photograph by George Sakkestad
See the story in Metro Santa Cruz
Member Groups of the Pelican Protection Alliance
Native Animal Rescue
International Bird Rescue & Rehabilitation Center
The Ocean Conservancy
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Save Our Shores
Santa Cruz Bird Club

The California Brown Pelican is an endangered species. In the 1960s this classic coastal bird’s population was terribly decimated by the wide spread use of agricultural pesticides. In the 1970s they were on the brink of extinction. Since the banning of DDT, and with the federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, the pelican has made a dramatic comeback. But, the extraordinarily high kill rates by fishing hooks and lines, is a horrible irony after society realized its earlier errors with this bird, and has done so much to protect it.

This website is dedicated to educating the public about the problem we present to pelicans, and to develop resources to protect them.

Notes from the Sept 19 meeting:


A second meeting to discuss the pelican situation on the Santa Cruz Wharf was held on September 19, 2001. In attendance were several Native Animal Rescue (NAR) volunteers, The Ocean Conservancy, Save Our Shores, Pelican Network, City Wharf staff, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) staff, one recreational fisherman, and several staff from the International Bird Rescue Center.

Michelle Templeton (NAR) agreed to serve as chair with Kymber Bonham (NAR) acting at co-chair. The group agreed to call itself the Pelican Protection Alliance (PPA). PPA will work with the City of Santa Cruz and the Department of Fish and Game to ensure that this summer’s unacceptable loss of pelicans and other seabirds is not repeated. A four-point action plan was developed at the meeting addressing: education, gear modification, policy, and a contingency plan for next year.



PPA discussed the following components to an educational strategy to reduce gear entanglements and increase public awareness about the brown pelican:

Flyers placed on car windows (especially in the morning) at start of summer and when bait fish come in with messages about how to avoid entanglements, what to do if you catch a bird, NAR contact info, fine information and a warning about possibility of wharf closure. Flyers should be in multiple languages (English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Filipino).

Contact card – small, wallet sized card with information on what to do if you snag a bird and NAR contact information. Distribute on cars or by docents at the beginning of the summer.

Signs Provide additional signs on the wharf including both bird entanglement information and natural history information. Use multiple languages and/or use images where possible.

Kiosks Wharf interpretive kiosks (controlled by the Museum of Natural History) appear underutilized. Jen Jolly will be updating the kiosk in front of Marini’s with a brown pelican focus and is willing to include an entanglement prevention message. Jen agreed to work with NAR and IBRC.

Kennels IBRC staff suggested placement of animal carriers on the Wharf in summer (for holding birds until NAR arrives). The kennels are visible and can also be used for educational messages (i.e., NAR’s phone number and brief message about what to do if you catch a bird can be on the carrier itself)

Docents Could be UC Program, Natural History Museum folks, city staff. PPA believes that during peak baitfish season it important to have folks in uniforms, California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) or City rangers/lifeguards) on the wharf interacting with the fishers.

Educational messages should include: how to avoid snagging birds (don’t cast into diving birds, control your line on the wharf, control areas where fish are cleaned and control trash areas, dispose of line properly), what to do if you snag a bird or see an injured bird (don’t cut the line, don’t clip the hook, secure the bird and call NAR). NAR’s phone number should be made available.

Wharf Supervisor Dan Buecher noted that the City definitely plans to add signs to the Wharf before next summer. PPA members will try to meet with the City in the coming weeks to discuss signs and other educational concepts.



Several of the ideas that came forward at the September 5, 2001 pelican meeting were determined not to be feasible, or not worth the effort. For example, IBRC and NAR staff and volunteers did not think it was worthwhile pursuing barbless hooks, dissolving hooks, or lighter weight line since none of these gear modifications would significantly reduce injuries to birds. However, there was agreement to pursue making bait fishing on the wharf a net only fishery and imposition of a reasonable bag limit. Options: net only for baitfish year round or net only during peak seasons (July through September). Gear modifications will be explored further with City staff and Fish and Game staff.



PPA discussed the desirability of adding language to the Santa Cruz municipal code clarifying the City’s authority to close some, or all, of the Wharf to fishing when necessary to protect birds.

It was decided to meet with the City’s Parks and Recreation Commission staff to develop a policy regarding the problem..



PPA discussed the need for a multilayer contingency plan. When fishing effort picks up at the beginning of the summer, educational efforts should start. This may include flyers on vehicles and/or docent interactions with fishers. When the baitfish and birds start to congregate in large numbers, the educational efforts should increase and net fishing only rule should be implemented in areas where birds congregate.

The City should develop a system of monitoring bird entanglements. NAR (and kayak operators) should notify City staff (who would be responsible for notifying DFG) of number of birds being handled. The City should identify a predetermined trigger to closing the wharf (or part of wharf). PPA recommends that the trigger be preventative and based on risk to birds rather than actual entanglements. The contingency plan should include a mechanism for determining when it is safe to reopen the wharf to fishing.

IBRC and NAR noted the importance of including responsibility for costs of treating injured birds into the contingency plan. The total cost of treating the birds entangled on the Santa Cruz Wharf this year is estimated at over $50,000.

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