Monofilament fishing line perilous for pelicans

Fishing line can be perilous. PHOTO CREDIT: MyFWC

In Florida, fishing is an important part of our lifestyle as well as the economy. However, this enjoyable activity sometimes can lead to problems for birds and other wildlife, such as sea turtles and manatees. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists, monofilament fishing line and fishing hooks that are improperly handled or discarded can entangle these animals, leading to injury and even death

The brown pelican is one species that is especially impacted by monofilament line. These birds frequently spend time looking for an easy meal at piers and other fishing hotspots. They are often hooked accidently as they try to grab bait off an angler’s line. Discarded monofilament line can wind up hanging from trees, piers and other structures, and can ensnare these birds. Once entangled, pelicans can have a difficult time flying and feeding.

“We often find pelicans that died as a result of monofilament line entanglements hanging from trees and other vegetation,” said FWC regional biologist Ricardo Zambrano. “These birds often suffer for days before succumbing to injury or starvation.”

Here are some simple things you can do to help protect brown pelicans and other wildlife:

  • Properly dispose of monofilament line. If you have unwanted line, store it safely and securely until it can be placed in a recycling bin.
  • Don’t leave fishing line unattended, as pelicans may be tempted to steal your bait.
  • Avoid casting near trees, utility lines and other areas where your line may get caught.
  • Check your tackle frequently for frayed line that may easily break.
  • Do not feed pelicans or other wildlife, since it encourages them to approach fishing boats, piers and anglers. If available, use fish-scrap repositories. If they are not available, discard your fish scraps in a garbage can or at home.

If you do accidentally hook a pelican, you should avoid cutting the line. Gently remove the hook if you feel confident you can do so without causing harm to yourself or the bird. If you cannot safely remove the hook and line from the pelican, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator. For a list of wildlife rehabilitators in your area, contact any of the FWC’s five regional offices or consult

For more information on the statewide Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program, visit