NAPLES, Fla - A Naples group says too many pelicans are getting hooked and is calling for smaller hooks and stricter rules at the Naples Pier.
But the pleas for change aren't sitting well with local anglers who say the pelicans will dive at their lines no matter the size of the hooks.
Tim Nagy is out on the Naples Pier just about every day. He and his friends fish for Tarpon, so they often use large hooks and large bait, bait that attracts pelicans.
"When they come down they dive after the fish," says Nagy. "They dive in the lines and the big concern is we hook it."
Down the pier Jesus Mora was using a smaller hook, but had already hooked three pelicans.
Last year a hundred pelicans from the Naples Pier were taken to the Von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Some were so severely injured, major surgery was required.
"We have to pay over $1,000 for each pelican that comes in and from the pier alone we get over 100 pelicans so you can do the math. It was costing us a great deal of money," says Andrew McElwaine, President of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Now McElwaine is leading the charge asking the Naples City Council to change the city's ordinance. "These are fully preventable injuries with education and some regulation these pelicans could not suffer," says McElwaine.
He wants to make sure people don't cut the lines when they hook pelicans, he wants people to throw unused fish back into the water through the tubes pier, rather than over the railing and he wants to limit the size of hooks.
"Their pouches can get torn and damaged and require surgery," says McElwaine.
But it's that last change that isn't sitting well with local anglers. "They're trying to protect the pelicans but I don't think changing the rules is going to change much of anything. The pelicans are going to fly into the lines no matter what," says Dennis Bottino.
If passed, people could be fined more than a hundred dollars for breaking the rules, but McElwaine says he'd prefer the focus to be on education rather than fines.