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Fishing Tackle Threatens Wildlife

Last week, our veterinary technician, Erica Palmer, tried desperately to save a beautiful Magnificent frigatebird that was found stranded on-shore, weak and unable to fly. This young female received immediate emergency care and radiographs were obtained to assess for internal damage. Radiographs revealed a 3-pronged fish hook lodged in the bird’s esophagus, along with metal leaders running further into her stomach. Due to the extent of damage from the embedded hook, and the frigate’s poor condition, veterinary staff made the difficult decision that it was in the best interest of the frigate to humanely euthanize her. Another animal lost to trash in our oceans.

Magnificent frigatebirds are huge, black sea birds that have a 7-foot wingspan and a scissor-like tail. They scoop food from the ocean with their long, hooked bill or by stealing it from other birds. Frigatebirds have earned the name man-of-war-bird because they will harass other birds until they regurgitate a recently caught meal. The frigatebird then steals the food in midair as they are unable to float on the water like other sea birds because their feathers are not waterproof believe it or not!

Hundreds of thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles and seabirds, are killed every single year because of fishing tackle. At least 200 species of marine animals worldwide are impacted. Fishing line, hooks and other tackle are left behind on our beaches or lost at sea, only for our marine animals to become entangled. Once the innocent animal is trapped in the line, it drowns or is unable to eat.

If you should come across an entangled marine animal in St. Thomas, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Do not jump off the boat into the water. Instead, note your gps coordinates.
  2. Call local responders listed here:
    1. Coral World 340-775-1555
    2. Sea Turtle Assistance and Rescue (STAR) 340-690-0474
    3. US Virgin Islands DPNR Division of Fish and Wildlife

(340) 775-6762 – St. Thomas/St. John

(340) 773-1082 – St. Croix

  1. Wait for trained personnel. Please do not try to untangle the animal on your own.
  2. Take photos of the entanglement, if possible, keeping a safe distance from the animal.

Please always be mindful of what you leave behind on our beaches and in our oceans. Our animals and oceans depend on everyone to make smart choices.