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Byron Shire
September 25, 2023

Fishing line kills threatened Eastern Osprey

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Wildlife carers are begging fishers and anglers to take care of their lines after a breeding female eastern osprey had to be euthanised by veterinary staff at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary recently.

The bird, from a nest on the coast guard tower at Kingscliff, had suffered pain and starvation for weeks from fishing line tangled round her foot before she was finally caught. But the vets considered her injuries too severe to treat.

There are only about 120 breeding pairs and a total population of fewer than 300 eastern ospreys in left in NSW, according to a 2009 NSW Scientific Committee Review. And each pair usually produces just one offspring a year.

‘Eastern Ospreys in the Tweed area are dying from entanglement in fishing line caught up in nesting material and attached to the fish these birds are catching and eating,’ says Faye Hill, coordinator of the Tweed Osprey Group.

‘Rescue of this bird was hampered when Australian Seabird Rescue equipment used in the rescue attempt along Cudgen Creek was vandalised and stolen.

‘It is extremely difficult to rescue coastal birds of prey suffering fishing-line entrapment and often too late to avoid life-threatening injuries,’ she said.

Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers receive around 80 reports each year of fishing line entanglement suffered by wildlife including eastern ospreys, turtles, sea-eagles, and flying foxes who encounter the lines caught in trees near popular fishing spots.

Seabird Rescue is likewise regularly called upon to attend birds trapped by fishing line in the Tweed.

An adult eastern osprey from the nest at the Boyds Bay tick gates was euthanised last breeding season following septic injuries from fishing line entanglement.

A young eastern osprey was reported from Pottsville with fishing line caught around its foot in March – its fate unknown.

In June, Essential Energy workmen used their cherry picker to remove a mass of fishing line draped around the eastern osprey nest near the bridge along the Tweed Coast Road at Hastings Point, temporarily averting disaster for this breeding pair and allowing the successful rearing of two chicks at this very popular fishing location.

Fish-eating birds and other wildlife are constantly enduring horrific injuries from fishing line entanglement, involving strangulation, severed tendons and ligaments, and cuts through to the bone.

How anglers and fisher can help reduce the carnage:

• Always removing any waste fishing line from the environment, wherever it is found, and whether it is their own or has been left lying around by less considerate persons.

• Bundle or cut up waste fishing line and place in a holding bag for transport to recycling or rubbish bins.

• Ask experienced fishers and tackle shops about appropriate line and techniques to use to increase catch while reducing negative impacts.

• Avoid rust-resistant stainless steel and alloy hooks that persist in the stomachs of animals and in the environment indefinitely.

Image: A breeding adult osprey from the Kingscliff coast guard tower nest carries a fish to the nest with fishing tackle still attached.  Photo Suzi Phillips

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