Portrait – Double-crested Cormorant
We’ve all heard of these poor albatross chicks who perish on Midway Island with stomachs full of plastic waste. Clouds of micro-plastics in the center of the Pacific Ocean. One thing is certain, the plastic waste that pollutes the waters of the Pacific Ocean around Midway Island is not created by locals. Do you know where Midway Island is located? It’s at the center of the Pacific Ocean, halfway between North America and Asia.
City inhabitants like Montrealers are responsible. Our indifference and lack of respect for the environment not only causes environmental damage thousands of miles from home. It does so right here in our lakes, rivers and nature parks. Their inhabitants suffer as much as the Albatross chicks on Midway Island.
Plastic trash along the river banks of the Ile de la Visitation Nature Park
As the above image testifies, waste, especially the plastic waste that we throw in the water and along our shores are a disgrace, a reflection of our society. You have to be ignorant to believe that only the Albatross chicks thousands of miles away will suffer. Here, birds of all sizes suffer the same consequences. In addition, hooks and fishing line improperly disposed of along our shores do as much damage.
Six pack plastic holders kill birds, mammals and reptiles
When I visit the Ile de la Visitation Nature Park, it seems to me that individuals in general are a bit more responsible than in the past. There’s less trash left along the trails. The garbage cans have been put to good use. The current maintenance team deserves the credit for much of this. Unfortunately, the use of the river banks has not improved and waste from fishermen is on the rise. Birds only suffer more.
Fishing line disposed along the Montreal Back River – Ile de la Visitation Nature Park
As we come to the end of the fishing season, the damage is very clear and obvious. Shorebirds and waterfowl are the first to suffer. Their young may have gotten tangled causing death or disabilities that significantly reduce their chances of survival. The fishing line that is caught in the branches of trees has also caused the death of a multitude of other birds.
Double-crested Cormorant with Fishing Hook in Neck – Ile de la Visitation Nature Park
Lost hooks also cause their share of damage. What is even more shocking, I’ve been told stories of fisherman purposely trying to catch Double-crested Cormorants just for the fun of it. Witnesses tell me that the Double-crested Cormorant in the photo above was hooked intentionally by fishermen. This in an area where fishing is prohibited.
Double-crested Cormorant with 3 Fishing Hooks in its Body – Ile de la Visitation Nature Park
Many incidents occur by accident without any negligence on the part of fishermen. Double-crested Cormorants instinctively chase lures, bait and the fisherman’s catch. This often without notice. They appear out of nowhere and within seconds all hell breaks loose. The above Double-crested Cormorants has three hooks on his body. One in the mouth, neck and the left leg.
Double-crested Cormorants entangled in fishing line is more often the cause of negligence. Fishing line that is simply thrown on the banks of lakes and rivers is a major cause of these incidents. The Double-crested Cormorant in the photo above has its left leg atrophied by fishing line. It also has fishing line wound around its beak.
Despite the efforts of responsible fishermen, incidents and acts caused by less responsible individuals seem inevitable. In communities on the south shore to Gatineau, fines of $1,000 to $5,000 are given out for littering in nature. In stark contrast, Montreal has no negligible fines for those who destroy our environment. Perhaps the solution is to create sanctuary areas in our nature parks where fishing is prohibited. Serving offenders with expensive fines for violations would better finance patrols in our nature parks and help ensure the survival of some species.
Before it comes to prohibiting fishing, I‘d like to see fishing associations take on initiatives and build awareness to better protect our wetlands, shores and waterways from litter. I know a lot of responsible fishermen themselves who are inconvenienced by trash left behind by other fishermen and visitors. Our natural areas deserve to be better protected.
Double-crested Cormorant with fish
Here’s a little video of the Double-crested Cormorant with a fishing hook in its neck at the Ile de la Visitation Nature Park. If you come upon injured wildlife don’t hesitate to contact local authorities. They have trained professionals who can properly capture the animal and expedite it to the nearest care facility.