A few years ago, as seen in these photos, I was doing a beach cleanup at the South end of Topsail Island and came across this Common Loon that was hooked, tangled, and emaciated. I was able to grab him, remove the hook and line, but he was still in bad shape. I took him to Possumwood Acres Wildlife Rehab in Hubert where he recovered and was released. This is not all that uncommon and happens from time-to-time when surf and pier fishing.
This summer, while attending the Southeastern Marine Debris Consortium Workshop in Charleston, I got a text message from a friend, who was pier fishing, with a photo of a Loggerhead Sea Turtle entangled in his line. I immediately sent him a text back asking him not to cut the line, but it was too late.
This is a common problem with fishing, catching something that you don’t intend to. There are few things you can do to avoid catching something you don’t intend to catch when it comes to pier fishing, unless you avoid fishing all together, but you can take steps to save the creature you accidentally captured and prevent future entanglements with the same line (monofilament line doesn’t biodegrade so it is in the marine environment forever) and that line can become a future death trap for even more creatures.
Here are some steps to take if you ever find yourself in this predicament.
1. Don’t PANIC!!
2. Don’t cut the line!!!
1. Slowly reel the bird in and do not shake the bird loose.
2. Call a local Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
3. Wear Sunglasses and gloves if you have them to prevent injury – birds are feisty!
4. Tightly grab the bird behind the eyes and hold it’s legs – you may want to fold the wings and straddle the bird with your legs to get him/her under control.
5. Cover the bird’s head. This will to calm him/her down in case you are going to remove the hook yourself, but you can also rely on the Wildlife Rehab Center to do this for you.
6. If the bird is entangled, cut the line only when you have full control of the bird.
7. If you remove the hook and line and the bird looks healthy, release him/her carefully. If the bird looks unhealthy or tired, call the Wildlife Rehab Center.
8. Don’t forget to recycle the line!
FOR OTHER MARINE LIFE including SEA TURTLES:
1. If there are surfers in the water, yell down to them and ask for their help. Most surfers are eager to do so and would be thrilled at the chance. Surfers are already in the water and depending on the size and type of marine life you captured, they can unhook and you are back to fishing in no time.
2. If there are no surfers in the water, simply walk the pole and line down the pier until whatever you caught is on the beach, then have someone help you remove the hook.
3. If it is a Sea Turtle, call the closest Sea Turtle Hospital or Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
4. Report what happened with the local Marine Fisheries Department. They might be interested in the data.
For more information about entanglements, monofilament recycling, and marine debris, please contact the NC Marine Debris Symposium at RidTheSeaOfMarineDebris@gmail.com