Anglers in Naples upset with new fishing rules on the pier

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People fishing on Naples Pier. (Credit: WINK News)

A program to ban fishing on the Naples Pier aims to protect pelicans injured from hooks and fishing lines, but anglers in Naples are not in favor of the new pier rules.

More than 500 people have signed a petition to reverse the rules, but city leaders say there would need to be an overwhelming reason to change the pilot program.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida says the pilot program will save birds. Every day they admit one to three pelicans with severe injuries from the pier into their hospital.

Having one day out of the week for five months where these pelicans can have a break may significantly impact how many are severely injured.

As of Monday, 32 pelicans were being treated at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for injuries they got at the Naples Pier.

Hospital Director Joanna Fitzgerald said, “three of them are inside the hospital still receiving critical care and the rest are outside, recovering at the shorebird pool.”

Leaders with the hospital, like Fitzgerald, said enough is enough. From 2019 to 2020, the number of pelicans they’ve had to treat has seen a significant increase.

“When we first approached city council to let them know of the issues, especially because of the constraints it was putting on our budget, we had seen 112% increase from the year before,” said Fitzgerald.

As a result, the city council voted to approve a pilot program to ban fishing from the pier every Sunday from January 2022 until May 2022.

Local bait and tackle shop owners like Captain Bill Bowser have concerns with the day chosen. “I think a lot of people that’s their only day off. Consequently, I think they should be allowed to fish.”

It may be one day out of the week, but Fitzgerald said one day can have lasting effects.

“If that one day could save us another, you know, possibly 30 to 50 birds that come in, that’s a significant number when you look at it. So we’ll see. We’ll see. I’m excited to get the opportunity to just see what the data shows.”

Bowser said, “there are people here. That’s what they come down here for. They want to fish. They fish the pier every day. I just don’t think it’s right. I think they need to address the pelican issue in a different way.”

City leaders chose Sunday because it is a busy fishing day.

The pilot program will also ban fishing from the pier during the five months from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida says it is in need of volunteers and donations. You can learn more about how you can help by clicking here.

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