Fishing waste 'responsible for 90 per cent' of bird injuries, says rescue group

Waste kills birds: Gordon Bradbery with Arthur Booth and Kirsten Hort near one of the bins at the Windang boat ramp. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Waste kills birds: Gordon Bradbery with Arthur Booth and Kirsten Hort near one of the bins at the Windang boat ramp. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Waste from fishing has been blamed for “about 90 per cent” of the injuries to bird life seen by the Australian Seabird Rescue (ASB) group, who are urging fishers to do a better job of holding on to their materials.

And thanks to efforts from the West Wollongong Rotary group, several popular fishing spots around the Illawarra now have new rubbish receptacles specifically for this purpose.

Now it’s a matter of people getting used to using them responsibly.

ASB branch branch co-ordinator Kirsten Hort said discarded fishing line, and hooks, accounted for the vast majority of injuries to water-living birds, so when Arthur Booth from Rotary spoke to her about how to do something about it, ASB got right behind it.

“For us it’s actually our major issue in terms of injuries,” she said.

“We really supported the initiative because 90 per cent of the injuries sustained by our sea and shore birds are sustained by discarded fishing tackle and line, or unsafe fishing practices.

“Since 2005 when our branch started we’ve actually rescued over 1300 pelicans alone, and the highest percentage of that is due to fishing line entanglements, ingestion of lines, and discarded line.”

The bins, which are made from PVC pipe, have been installed at 12 fishing locations at boat ramps in Wollongong and Shellharbour.

Ms Hort said many fishers did the right thing but the waste left by a few – sometimes by accident – was causing the problems.

“We’ll find if someone’s doing some fishing, and they might just cut off a bit of line, and instead of disposing it appropriately … throw it on the ground or throw it in the water,” she said.

“It’s really not all fisherfolk. We have a great relationship with the majority of them. 

“But some don’t realise the consequences for our marine wildlife – particularly with the pelican, because it’s a big bird.

“We’ve seen some horrific injuries sustained by fishing line around their legs and their wings, hooks in the eye, things like that.”

The bins were trialled in several locations last year and are now being installed at other locations including Wollongong and Bellambi harbours and Windang and Berkeley boat ramps.

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