Pelican Protection Alliance is formed

Pelicans in Peril

Emergency Meeting Tuesday, Sept 5
7pm 365 Lake Street, Santa Cruz
Native Animal Rescue
It's been a terrible summer for Pelicans - here's some (not all) press that ran in case you haven't seen it. There is going to be a meeting in Santa Cruz about this issue Wednesday night.

Published Saturday, Sept. 1, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News

Injuries to pelicans prompt limits on fishing off wharf

SANTA CRUZ - So many California brown pelicans have been hurt off the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf in the last month that officials closed part of the wharf to fishing, and a Bay Area bird rescue center has had to appeal for extra money to feed the injured birds.

Karen Benzel of the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Cordelia said staff members treated about 100 pelicans in August. Because they hunt close to shore, the birds often get caught on fishing hooks and tangled in fishing lines.

The California brown pelican has been on the U.S. endangered species list since 1970. Benzel said that only 5,000 breeding pairs remain.

Under the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Act, fines for harming California brown pelicans are severe: as much as $50,000 and possibly a year in jail. But Bill Talkin, chief enforcement officer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the California-Nevada region, noted that fishing off the wharf is legal.


Sunday, September 2, 2001

Scores of pelicans hurt by fishhooks

By DAVID L. BECK, San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE - Victims of their own appetite for anchovies, California brown, pelicans have been ''hooked, snagged and otherwise injured'' by the dozens off the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf during the last month. The situation has become so alarming that state and local officials have closed part of the wharf to fishing, and the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield, has had to appeal for extra funds to feed the injured birds.

''We've had 100 pelicans come through'' in August, said Karen Benzel of the center. ''All of us,'' she added, ''are running out of energy and funds.''

Benzel and others would prefer that the entire wharf be off-limits to fishing for the time being. ''It's just a tragedy,'' she said. ''I'm heartbroken that that pier's not going to be closed this weekend.''

The California brown pelican has been on the U.S. endangered species list since 1970. Benzel said that only 5,000 breeding pairs remain.

The pelicans are known as aggressive fishers that don't mind sharing space with human fisherfolk. As a result, the birds get caught on hooks and tangled in fishing lines.

The lines prevent them from fishing or flying, and the hooks infect them unless removed quickly. The bird center urges people to use barbless hooks, which it says hold fish as well as hooks with barbs do, but are easier to remove from the flesh of impaled birds.

Rangers and biologists have been working the Santa Cruz pier for three days, explaining the situation and warning people to fish farther out on the pier because the pelicans have been feeding close to shore.

Fishing is temporarily allowed only from the east parking lot - a bulge in the wharf opposite the Miramar restaurant and facing the boardwalk - to the end of the pier. It is banned on the northern third.

Dannettee Shoemaker, Santa Cruz recreation superintendent, said many of those fishing close in on the wharf are ''day trippers'' unfamiliar with the danger they pose to pelicans. A few have argued, she said, ''because they feel it is their right to fish anywhere on the pier. And on a typical day, they're right.''

But for about the last week and a half, she said Friday, ''we've had a huge number of pelicans actively feeding off the wharf because of the anchovies that are so close to shore." They're having a feeding frenzy. It's a wonderful spectacle to watch, until one of them gets snagged or hooked or whatever.'' Shoemaker said the northern section of the wharf would remain closed to fishing ''until the bait moves on and the pelicans spread out. . . Old-time fishermen are saying, 'Oh, couple weeks, they'll be out of here,' which would be about the middle of next week.''



September 1, 2001

Park rangers planning relief for pelicans



SANTA CRUZ With the plight of brown pelicans continuing on the Santa Cruz Wharf, city park rangers and state Fish and Game Department personnel will be out this weekend to try to keep the birds from becoming ensnared in fishing lines. The city temporarily closed the front segment of the wharf to fishing Aug. 22 until the pelican action subsides.

Drawn by small bait to the waters near the wharf, the federally protected birds get stuck in fishing lines that can lead to injury and, in more severe cases, death.

Volunteers with Native Animal Rescue have continued to keep tabs on the wharf to rescue the endangered birds should they get caught. It's a seasonal occurrence, but volunteers say birds are getting caught more this year. "It didn't help very much," Native Animal Rescue volunteer Molly Richardson said of the pier's partial closure to fishing.

Nora Rojek, seabird biologist with the state Fish and Game Department, said the agency would have people on the wharf this weekend to inform fishermen about the pelicans. The department also has a boat stationed around the wharf to help rescue the birds.

Fisherman Rafael Morales of Santa Clara helped untangle a bird from his fishing net Friday afternoon. "It's like flies in your home &emdash; you don't want them but they come in," Morales said.

Meanwhile the rehabilitation center where volunteers take the birds says it is running out of money with the influx of birds this year. "We've kind of reached the end of our rope," said Karen Benzel of the International Bird Research Rescue Center in Suisun City. She said the center has taken in 160 birds this year and estimated about 70 percent are from Santa Cruz. She said rehabilitating the birds cost about $100 each for food and medicine.


Rich Marks
Native Animal Rescue
831 462 0726

Karen Benzel
International Bird Rescue Center
California Headquarters

510/814-7227 phone
510/769-7619 fax

For more information, and how you can help, please e-mail Karen at:

To return to the page you came from, close this window