On behalf of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and its more than 6,000 supporting members and families, I'd like to thank the community for the outpouring of support to protect our pelicans. This week marks an important milestone for our collective work. On April 2, Naples City Council voted 6-1 to ban the use of more than one hook at the City of Naples Pier, the first pier in the state with a law prohibiting use of multiple hooks.
Since December 2013, the Conservancy has logged a staggering 1,700-percent increase in injured pelican admissions to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. Along with our work rehabilitating and caring for the influx of patients, the Conservancy worked to support the city in protecting our wildlife by advocating for new measures to address responsible angling activities. In recent months we funded two part-time patrol officers and installed signs at the City of Naples Pier to support these efforts. We engaged citizens in an education campaign, providing training about ways to prevent and humanely respond to the immediate needs of injured birds.
We could not have done it without you. Thank you to the citizens, anglers, partner organizations, media and the Naples City Council for coming together to make a positive change. This vote is a big win for the safety of people and the safety of pelicans and other wildlife at and around the Naples Pier.
We express our gratitude to responsible anglers; it is the "Pier to Peer" support you show one another, assisting in-the-moment to detangle and unhook pelicans which helps to prevent more serious injuries.
Thank you to residents and community groups, including Delnor-Wiggins Pass and Lover's Key State Parks, for participating in our training sessions and become ambassadors to the public on prevention of and response to injured pelicans.
Thank you to the media who closely followed this issue and shared accurate information and messages of how to help.
Thank you also to our conservation partners around the state for their response. We've learned that the issue is not unique to Naples, and other communities along the Gulf Coast are responding to an increase in pelican injuries as well.
CROW is engaged in a similar public education program, which they call "Clear Your Gear," and have been working with the Sanibel Island Fishing Club to increase public awareness with signage at local piers and fishing spots.
Additionally, thank you to the Naples City Council for listening to our concerns and showing great leadership in the vote to ban multiple hooks at the pier. We believe the ban, as well as continued diligence on enforcement, education, signage and patrols during tourist season will help lessen the extent of unnecessary pelican injuries and deaths.
This is a terrific example what we as a community can accomplish together. Thank you.
If you need information on how to properly assist an animal in distress, call the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at 239.262.2273. Visit www.conservancy.org/von-Arx-Wildlife-Hospital. For brief visual instructions, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTABX1yeOFM.
Or, in Lee County, if you find an animal that you think needs help, you can call CROW at (239) 472-3644, ext. 222. They can evaluate and, if necessary, rescue and treat animals so that they can be returned to their habitats.
For 50 years, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida has been dedicated to protecting, treating and rehabilitating pelicans and hundreds of other native wildlife in Southwest Florida, but we cannot do it without your continued support. Protection of our native wildlife is in all our hands.
Rob Moher is the president and CEO of Conservancy of Southwest Florida