The scene plays out too often, according to Jeannie Bystrom, who lives on Bimini Bay across the waterway from a small spoil island that serves as a rookery for a number of species of birds.
Too often she sees birds injured by a fishing hook, stranded and unable to feed, or entangled in fishing line, unable to fly or fend for themselves.
A year ago, Bystrom and some friends managed to post some signs to advise anglers of the danger to birds who become hooked or entangled in fishing lines. They also hoped the signs would alert boaters to be on the lookout for birds in the rookery.
“When they decide to fly away, if they’ve become entangled in yards and yards of line wrapped in the branches, they result to flapping their wings until they die a horrible death by hanging,” she said.
She had seen too many birds entangled in the mangrove trees to sit idle.
With help from some friends, they posted their signs on a waterway post with a marker to aid navigation. The post was conveniently located within a few feet of the spoil island in Bimini Bay near Galati Marine’s docks and the sign is Galati’s.
The signs alert anglers to take caution and to “climb a tree” if need be to save an entangled bird.
But Bystrom’s signs were removed in June last year by Manatee County Sheriff’s Office marine deputies on orders from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission because the agency requires a sign permit.
Bystrom also learned her sign would not be permitted.
Bystrom spotted a pelican in distress April 8 through her telescope.
“It looked perfectly normal, just sitting on a branch. I could see in the scope he had a hook in his wing. They usually don’t roost in the low branches, but he was low in the tree. As soon as I paddled up, he took off and fell in the water just a couple yards from the branch he’d been standing on.
“He was tangled in line and it also was wrapped in the trees,” she said.
Bystrom got the hook out, and took the bird to her husband Bill’s veterinary clinic — Island Animal Clinic in Holmes Beach — where they applied a wound treatment.
Once back at her home, she released it right away.
“He took off from my dock and went right back to the rookery,” Bystrom said.
“I love happy endings.”
However, when she returned to the rookery to remove the fishing line from the tree, she found a dead pelican hanging from a branch. “No more happy ending,” she concluded.
The scenario was repeated Memorial Day weekend, and Bystrom boated over to the rookery, climbed a mangrove tree and released a brown pelican “whose legs were tied to the branch.” But another one wasn’t so lucky.
On June 2, Bystrom successfully cut line and hooks and released two entangled pelicans at the rookery.
A conversation in April by phone and email moved through the FWC, back and forth between The Islander office and Bystrom, and it may soon move things in the right direction.
Amy Clifton viewed Bystrom’s image of the regulated sign and the post, and said she would make inquiries as to how the agency might post a warning sign near the rookery.
It then moved to Ryan Moreau of the waterway management unit, who offered some suggestions for signage at the rookery.
Bystrom is working with Moreau on appropriate language to encourage anglers to be responsive and responsible stewards of the rookery.
Meanwhile, she stays on alert, saving one bird at a time.