Appeal to fishermen to act more responsibly

Reader John Suckling forwarded the following article to St Francis Today and we publish in a hope of raising an awareness amongst fisher folk to the importance of discarding fishing line properly “The following was received from Hugh who carries serious gravitas in the world of birds nationally and internationally. The message is graphic, powerful and relevant to our day to day pollution issues – and we have a large local fishing community who might not be aware of the dangers involved with nylon on land let alone under water.”  

Below article by Hugh Chittenden

The following set of photos graphically illustrates some of the worst traits in humans, and I for one hang my head in shame at our irresponsibility, and the knock-on effects to wildlife that we profess to care for.  How have we become insensitive to our surroundings? In this case, the blame for discarded fishing line lies squarely at the feet of fishermen. Not all fishermen behave irresponsibly of course, I have friends who are keen fishermen & I know they act very responsibly and would never discard a single matchstick at the water’s edge, let alone bunches of discarded fishing line. Sadly however, and judging by the amount of fishing line that one sees lying around on the margins of dams and along beaches, the majority of fishermen seem to have no concern for the way they litter! All the photos below show fishing line injuries to three separate Woolly-necked Storks. Stork Nos 1 & 2 photographed at Albert Falls Dam near Pietermaritzburg (March, 2019), and Stork No 3, photographed at Mtunzini, June, 2014.

Stork No 1 with left foot entangled in fishing line.

When storks become entangled in fishing line, the line often becomes tight, stopping the flow of blood, resulting in swelling and eventually foot or toe loss. This also means that the entangled birds can no longer roost on tree branches at night as they no longer have the capability to clasp onto the branch when the wind blows.

Stork No 1, with the right foot showing stump-end & loss of toes from a previous (healed) fishing line injury. Left foot now undergoing similar constriction and potential further loss of toes.

Stork No 1 attempting to find aquatic prey along the shallow margins of Albert Falls Dam.

Stork No 1 in flight.

A woolly-necked Stork on the edge of Albert Falls Dam, completely oblivious to the danger of fishing line just one meter behind where it is standing!

Stork No 2. Within minutes of photographing the first Woolly-necked Stork entangled with fishing line, a second bird was seen limping badly with a swollen toe dangling and about to fall off!

Stork No 3. This bird, in obvious pain, was found limping badly at the edge of the Umlalazi Lagoon, Mtunzini. Umlalazi Nature Reserve is managed by Ezemvelo.

Finally, in November of 2015, a Palm-nut Vulture, was photographed at Mtunzini with fishing line attached to its one foot. The insert (below) shows one toe badly swollen and would have in all probobility lost that extremity shortly after this photograph was taken!Although this article is some

Msinsi Holdings manage the Albert Falls and Midmar Dam resorts, and do a good job of running these facilities. However, there should be more accountability with not only keeping water margins clean of debris, but also signage to alert and educate fishermen re the dangers of items such as discarded fishing line.

Although this article was written some time back in a place a thousand kilometres from St Francis it is just as relevant here as there, for our birdlife, and indeed sea life is equally threatened by not only the nylon of fishing lines  but also the hooks, sinkers and of course the plastic that pollutes our coastline.


Fishermen are urged to act more responsibly, both along coastal shore lines and at inland fishing sites.


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