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Please don't feed the pelicans

As I See It

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Media contact: Rodney Barreto

Just don't do it.

I've written about this before, but we're still seeing the effects of brown pelicans becoming dependent on throw-away fish and fish scraps, and I felt it was important to bring up the subject again.

In Jacksonville this winter, approximately 30 pelicans have died. These dead birds have been sent to a wildlife laboratory for testing, and we're still awaiting the results.

However, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists, cold weather stress and the alteration of migration due to feeding may be to blame.

The birds had been gathering at a local seafood-processing plant, where fish scraps are readily available. Our law enforcement personnel are working with that facility to alter the way they dispose of fish and fish scraps. We are also working with a local bird sanctuary to assist in saving birds that are sick or stressed.

FWC staff and other experts worry about the overall health of brown pelican populations. Because of this concern, the Commission passed a rule in 2008 to stop the feeding of large numbers of pelicans.

The activities no longer permitted under this rule include:

  • Dumping or discharging large amounts of fish scraps, bycatch or comparable materials from a fish house or similar facility. This attracts large numbers of pelicans to that area and causes changes in their behavior. By indirectly feeding pelicans, such large-scale activities can have a detrimental effect on a brown pelican population by inhibiting migration and leading to cold-weather-induced illness and injury.
  • Individuals or groups feeding large numbers of pelicans at regular places and times. This does not apply to feeding pelicans that are captive or under care at places such as a rehabilitation facility.
  • Anglers tossing scraps at public fishing piers and beaches. Public piers that attract large numbers of fishermen may want to consider creating scrap chutes, where folks can dump the abundant leftovers to keep them away from pelicans.

The intent of this rule is not to regulate the occasional or the casual feeding of individual pelicans. This rule provides an enforcement tool to resolve situations where large-scale feeding could negatively influence the health or survival of a pelican.

You can help keep pelican populations healthy by not feeding them.

If available, use fish-scrap repositories at piers and docks. If they are not available, discard your fish scraps in a garbage can or at home.

Your efforts will help keep pelican populations healthy and wild. Please don't feed them.

FWC Facts:
Seagrasses have been used by humans for more than 10,000 years - to insulate houses, stuff furniture, thatch roofs and even fill seats in early models of Volkswagens.

Learn More at AskFWC