Port San Luis – Problem Situation with Fish Cleaning Station

By Emily Miggins

Recently, Pacific Wildlife Care and its volunteers have led the creation of a growing coalition of concerned residents and organizations including: Morro Coast Audubon Society, Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club, SLO Coastkeeper, and Willow Tree Wildlife who are urging The Port San Luis Harbor Commissioners to “clean up their act” so to speak and protect our incredible Central Coast ocean environment.

Factual bullet points about the situation the coalition is trying to address with PSL:

  • One would not think that our coastal fish-cleaning stations would be a threat to wildlife, but that is exactly what’s happening at the facility on the Harford Pier in Avila Beach, and other locations on the central coast. Our beloved brown pelican is in danger, and juvenile pelicans are especially vulnerable. These birds are no longer fed by their parents and are expected to switch to “plunge-diving” for food, this takes time and patience.
  • Instead, some pelicans learn to linger around fish-cleaning stations looking for, easy to find, scraps of food left by fishermen. In the process these birds get covered with fish oil that coats their feathers and compromises their ability to insulate themselves from the cold ocean water. The bird’s core body temperature lowers, they avoid the water, and they begin shivering. This deadly cycle continues as they stop feeding naturally and seek handouts from humans to survive.
  • A deadly handout that pelicans find at poorly designed fish-cleaning stations is fish carcasses and other large fish parts tossed to them, or thrown into the ocean water. The hungry pelicans try to eat these, but can’t.
  • Their throats and pouches aren’t built that way. Pelican pouches are designed to scoop up slippery sardines and anchovies that slide down their throats. But, foot-long rockfish spines, and other large fish parts, are razor sharp which can puncture pelican’s internal organs or get caught in their pouches.

So, what can we do to prevent the needles suffering and death of these incredible birds?

  1. First, our central coast fish-cleaning stations, which are outdated and wildlife unfriendly, must be modified.
  2. Second, we must do a better job of public outreach at our coastal marinas and piers regarding proper handling of fish waste. Third, we must let our local authorities know that we want changes made to protect our wildlife.
  3. It would seem that both our local and state authorities would want to promote sound fish waste management to protect our coastal environment – let them know that they should!

There are two positive actions that you the listener can do right now at this moment to help our Pelicans in Peril:

  • Please contact the Port San Luis Harbor Commission and let them know that you care. Now is the time to be heard! Port San Luis Harbor Commission 3950 Avila Beach Drive P.O. Box 249 Avila Beach, CA 93424 (805) 595-5400 Email: admin@portsanluis.com
  • Make a donation to Pacific Wildlife Care at our website to help support our important work to medically attend to these types debilitating, life threatening wildlife threats. We cannot do this without your financial support.
    Just one example of a pelican who tried to consume the wrong thing.

    Just one example of a pelican that tried to consume the wrong thing.

1 Comment

  1. Amanda from HomeByHearth on June 16, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Poor pelicans. Thank you guys for helping.

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