Catching more than fish

Monday, 11 December 2023

  • Estimated reading time 2 minutes

Catching more than fish

Fishing line identified as major injury threat to coastal birds

With summer holidays here, many people are heading to the coast for a break, and there are few more restful pastimes than fishing. However, it can spell disaster for unintended victims.

Coastal birds often become entangled in discarded fishing line, which can cause serious injury or even the death of the bird.

Ninety per cent of the injuries sustained by our seabirds and shorebirds are sustained by discarded fishing tackle and line, according to the rescue group Australian Seabird Rescue.

Although many fishers do the right thing and dispose of unwanted fishing tackle and line responsibly, there are still a few who simply throw it into the water or onto the sand.

Many people do not appreciate the dangers that fishing line poses to wildlife.

When free in the coastal environment, the loops of line form a potent trap, readily becoming entangled around the legs or wings of birds ranging from small birds, such as plovers, up to large birds, such as pelicans. It’s not only debilitating, it can eventually cause a slow and painful death. Further, hooks swallowed by birds can cause horrific internal injuries.

Because it persists in the environment for long periods, fishing line has the capacity to cause injury long after the fisher has packed up and gone home. Some lengths of fishing line have been recorded entangling multiple birds: a single length of discarded line was recorded ensnaring 13 Crested Terns and a Silver Gull.

Many coastal municipalities provide special bins that are specifically purposed for discarded fishing tackle to keep it from entering our precious marine environments. In places where there are no designated bins provided for tackle, bag your unwanted fishing line and tie up the top so that it can’t escape inadvertently, and place it into a normal bin.

A Christmas message to all fishers: This summer, please dispose of all your unwanted fishing tackle responsibly.

Click here to discover other ways you can become a bird-friendly beach-user.