I’ve been enjoying the changing season and, on the birding front, I’ve especially enjoyed seeing the loons coming in for winter, populating the water along the beach just beyond the surf, breathing life into what would otherwise look like a pretty bleak and chilly winter beach.
But this week I received a disturbing photo and email from a friend. It’s brief. It seems—though the evidence is circumstantial—that as striped bass are leaving our waters, commercial fishermen are setting gillnets along the beach that are drowning loons.
There are many ways to catch striped bass. Hooks, traps, etc. Only one of those methods, gill-netting, is also likely to kill birds.
Below is his email and photo of drowned Red-throated loons that had washed ashore. My friend gave me permission to use the photo. These are just the birds found; no one knows how many actually have drowned this fall in this one small area.
These local drownings kill birds that might otherwise be occupying, come spring, a much larger nesting area farther north. In other words, the local winter kill in one small area where birds are now concentrated could affect the loon population of a much larger region far away.
We need fishing that works, not fishing that wastes.
A message from my friend:
“Carl, we are still finding loons on the beach between Amagansett and Montauk: this week’s tally was 35, so I think we are over 70 at this point. I just learned that the gill netting season ends 12/15, so there will likely be more once the ocean calms down and more nets can be set.”