Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Carmel on the Case: Pelicans In Peril
At one major marina, pelicans are dying at an exceptionally high rate... But they don't have to. Some people claim a simple solution has been ignored. Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero is On The Case.
(WSVN) -- Fishermen often share the day's catch with pelicans by giving them what's left after they filet the fish.
But what they don't know is they're killing the birds with kindness.
Take this fellow.
He was given a fish head so big - it could kill him.
Harry Kelton: "They will eat until they can't eat any more."
Harry Kelton started saving injured pelicans years ago.
He's rescued them from near death because they can't say no to free fish.
Pelicans are designed to eat small fish with flexible bones.
Fishermen however, give them parts of big fish, which can mean big trouble.
Bones - like the ones you see here - become stuck in their throats or pierce their organs.
Harry Kelton: "The fish bones are pushing at the skin of that little hot dog that represents his stomach and it's a painful way to go."
It's such a life and death issue that Kelton helped the county come up with signs to warn fisherman not to feed the pelicans.
But not everybody pays attention.
Carey Parrish: "I'm concerned about them dying and getting sick."
Carey Parrish - a regular at Haulover Marina - says he's seen too many pelicans suffer.
Carey Parrish: "You see the fish hanging out of their mouth. You see it stuck in their throat. Their throat swells up real big, and you see the fish hanging out, and he's trying to get it up. He's trying to swallow it, and the bones are just hanging in his throat."
For three years now, Parrish says he's asked Dade County leaders to help save the pelicans.
The county responded by posting signs telling fishermen to put scraps in covered garbage containers.
But there was just one problem -- there were no covered containers.
Carey Parrish: "I thought the county was supposed to provide them a place to put them."
That was then.
This is now.
After we started asking questions, the county went out and bought covered containers for the 6 marinas it runs.
Kathy Haley,Marina Operations Manager: "But we've always had the trash containers out here."
Carmel Cafiero: "But the covered containers came after we started asking questions?"
Kathy Haley: "Ah, well, we were recently just looking into it, and, yes, we just purchased them. Yes."
Kathy Haley says the county is also aware of another option.
A PVC pipe that sends fish parts into the water under a dock.
Harry Kelton: "People can clean their fish there with the running water and drop the bone right down that six inch pipe, and it goes out of reach of the pelicans. The crabs and other bottom creatures can clean it up."
But the county says the department of environmental resources management - DERM - has concerns with that system because it puts waste in the water.
Carmel Cafiero: "Any chance you would change that policy?"
Kathy Haley: "I will be happy to talk further with DERM and let you know."
This is exactly the situation authorities hope to avoid by educating boaters and fishermen whether it's a county marina, a private marina, whether you're on a big boat or a small boat. The message here is that you're not doing these birds any favors by feeding them.
For more information, or if you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE.