SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (ValleyCentral) – A hundred or more brown pelicans likely died after becoming entangled in a fishing longline.
Seventy have washed up on Boca Chica Beach this week and 23 have been reported on the shores of South Padre Island.
Others were undoubtedly eaten by predators in the gulf or scavenged by coyotes along the beach.
Cameron County Marine Extension Officer Tony Reisinger and American biologist Stephanie Bilodeau examined dead pelicans in Boca Chica and found that nearly all had circle hooks embedded in their beaks.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. I think it was a freak accident. The pelicans, every one of them, most of them were hooked in their beaks by circle hooks from a longline. They were wrapped and twisted in the line, and it was very tragic,” Reisinger said.
United States Fish and Wildlife Officers and Texas Parks and Wildlife Wardens are investigating the unprecedented deaths. Captain Chris Dowdy of Texas Parks and Wildlife thinks the pelicans likely perished in the Gulf of Mexico south of the Rio Grande.
“We believe most of the birds that washed up on Boca Chica beach due to currents were likely from Mexican waters,” Dowdy said.
However, incursion into federal and state waters by illegal Mexican fishermen is an ongoing problem, and since September custodians have confiscated about three miles of longline and some 3,500 feet of gillnet.
After careful examination of the carcasses and fishing gear, Marine Extension Officer Tony Reisinger believes the longline was baited deep but somehow broke loose and floated to the surface where the pelicans unfortunately spotted a potential meal.
“It was a shock. I saw eight pelicans twisted into a single piece of longline, each of them had a circular hook in their mouth, and one pelican had nine wraps on its wings, so you know they are beaten… it’s tragic,” Reisinger said.
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