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Changes to fishing rules on Naples Pier being proposed to protect pelicans, wildlife

Posted at 11:33 PM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 23:33:05-04

NAPLES, Fla. — Pelicans and other wildlife are being injured on Naples Pier and one group thinks it’s time something is done about it.

The Naples Community Services Advisory Board met Tuesday night to discuss potential changes to rules when it comes to fishing on the pier. The impact could be quite significant.

“It’s multiple causes but this is a definite hot spot and we can see where the activity is affecting the wildlife,” says Joanna Fitzgerald, Director at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida von Arx Wildlife Hospital.

At Naples Pier, potential changes could be fast approaching. Changes that would see the pier closed for fishing. It’s in an effort to help protect wildlife getting hooked, namely pelicans.

“We could prevent these injuries if we alter the actions, even just slightly, that will reduce the number of animals being injured and that’s important," said Fitzgerald. "Not only for our organization but for a lot of the community. We are a very environmentally aware community so it’s a win-win.”

It comes through a number of proposals, which were presented to the Community Services Advisory Board. They include removal of the bulk fishing license, increasing the pelican patrol coverage, and reducing the amount of time the pier is open for fishing.

Ultimately, the board proposed closing the pier for fishing on Wednesdays, from January through May on a trial basis. Doing so will help the conservancy collect data on injured wildlife. The board can then regroup and make a proposal that could become permanent. Not everyone is on board though, as a number of those within the fishing community were present. But, as Fitzgerald says, it’s about finding common ground.

“It is not ‘us against them,’ it’s just trying to have a little bit of a balance and realize what’s happening is affecting these creatures," she said. "They do feel pain, the extensive treatments that they need following up from these injuries. It’s not they’re off to the hospital and all’s good, no worries. There’s a lot of pain and suffering that is endured by these animals.”

Last year, about 193 pelicans were admitted to the conservancy for injuries. It happens, as Fitzgerald says, at an early part of the season from January until about May. Which is the time frame the advisory council is recommending the city make their changes.

“Anytime people can understand what each other’s point of view is, it’s a win-win. I do think it’s a step in the right direction and I hope others will see that as well.”

Even though the proposal was made during tonight’s meeting, no immediate changes are taking place. The proposal still needs to be approved by the city council during their meeting. That could be as early as September.