Our beloved brown pelican is in danger, and juvenile pelicans are especially vulnerable. These birds are no longer fed by their parents and are expected to switch to “plunge-diving” for food, this takes time and patience. Instead, some pelicans learn to linger around fish-cleaning stations looking for, easy to find, scraps of food left by fishermen. In the process these birds get covered with fish oil that coats their feathers and compromises their ability to insulate themselves from the cold ocean water. The bird’s core body temperature lowers, they avoid the water, and they begin shivering. This deadly cycle continues as they stop feeding naturally and seek handouts from humans to survive.
A deadly handout that pelicans find at poorly designed fish-cleaning stations is fish carcasses and other large fish parts tossed to them, or thrown into the ocean water. The hungry pelicans try to eat these, but can’t. Their throats and pouches aren’t built that way. Pelican pouches are designed to scoop up slippery sardines and anchovies that slide down their throats. But, foot-long rockfish spines, and other large fish parts, are razor sharp which can puncture pelican’s internal organs or get caught in their pouches.
So, what can we do to prevent the needles suffering and death of these incredible birds?
First, our central coast fish-cleaning stations, which are outdated and wildlife unfriendly, must be modified. Second, we must do a better job of public outreach at our coastal marinas and piers regarding proper handling of fish waste. Third, we must let our local authorities know that we want changes made to protect our wildlife. It would seem that both our local and state authorities would want to promote sound fish waste management to protect our coastal environment – let them know that they should!
Please contact the Port San Luis Harbor Commission and let them know that you care. Now is the time to be heard!
Port San Luis Harbor Commission
3950 Avila Beach Drive
P.O. Box 249
Avila Beach, CA 93424
As always, stay alert and be involved.
- Douglas Tait, MCAS Conservation Chair