August 29, 2008
||Cast-off fishing net proves fatal for a sea lion at Coronado Island, near San Diego. (Jerry Allen/www.uwshooter.com)
A Wildlife Health Center project to clean up the California coastal seafloor got a big boost Thursday (Aug. 28) with a $400,000 grant from the state Wildlife Conservation Board. The funds will pay for staff and expenses to coordinate diving expeditions to collect lost gear, such as fishing nets and crab traps, from the waters off Central California.
The California Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project is run by wildlife health experts in the center's SeaDoc Society program.
Director Kirsten Gilardi, a wildlife health veterinarian of the School of Veterinary Medicine, said UC Davis research shows that almost 10 percent of all brown pelicans and gulls admitted to wildlife rehabilitation centers in California are injured by becoming tangled in or eating monofilament fishing line and hooks. California sea lions, Pacific harbor seals and northern elephant seals are also injured by lost fishing gear.
Early efforts to assess the severity of the problem have resulted in the retrieval of more than 11 tons of fishing gear. Gilardi said: "There are likely thousands of pieces of lost fishing posing a hazard to wildlife and people and reducing seafloor habitat quality."