Tactical Research Fund: Reducing the impact of discarded recreational fishing tackle on coastal seabirds

Project Number:



Department of Agriculture and Fisheries EcoScience Precinct

Principal Investigator:

Matthew Campbell

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:





This proposal will address the FRDC Recfishing Research priority area "Assessing the impact of recreational fishing methods on conservation values of aquatic habitats" as announced in the 2012 Annual Competitive Round Call for Expressions Of Interest. After making inquiries with seabird rescue organisations, it has become apparent that seabird entanglements in discarded fishing tackle is of major concern. Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital report that their rescue unit responded to approximately 300 calls for bird entanglements in discarded fishing tackle in 2011 (to August 1). Further, the Rescue Hotline of Pelican and Seabird Rescue Inc. have received approximately 400 calls in 2011 (to the time of writing - 10/9/2011). These figures are unacceptable and measures need to be taken to decrease the incidence of seabird interactions with discarded recreational fishing tackle. The injuries that result from these interactions are often catastrophic, with a high proportion of entangled animals being euthanised. Healthy Waterways has produced a provocative poster, attached, depicting a pair of budgerigars surrounded by fishing line and hooks. Such negative stereotypes need to be addressed and, as such, there is a need to educate recreational fishers as to the consequences of the careless discarding of fishing tackle. This subject was recently highlighted in a Queensland recreational fishing publication, Queensland Fishing Monthly (see attachment). Both recreational fishing representative groups, Sunfish and Ecofishers, have expressed concern regarding this issue. A fifteen minute search at a secluded recreational fishing location in the northern suburbs of Brisbane by two people resulted in the collection of the fishing tackle pictured in the attachment (13/09/2011 - Tingalpa Creek). Although this could be construed as an environmental problem and beyond the purview of FRDC, it certainly reflects poorly on recreational fishers and, as such, an extension/educational project would help alleviate the problems highlighted in this proposal.


1. Quantify the extent of seabird entanglement in northern Moreton Bay

2. Convene a workshop involving relevant stakeholders in order to establish methods for mitigating seabird entanglements

3. Promote the responsible removal of discarded fishing tackle from popular fishing locations in northern Moreton Bay

Final Report - 2011-057-DLD - Tactical Research Fund: Reducing the impact of discarded recreational fishing tackle on coastal seabirds

Final Report
Author(s):Matthew Campbell
Date Published:November 2013
Principal Investigator: Matthew Campbell

Keywordsseabirds; seabird entaglement; pelican; ibis; discarded fishing tackle; Fishing Line Recovery Bins

A Fishing Line Recovery Bin (FLRB) program was developed by the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in response to several emotive articles detailing the effects of discarded recreational fishing tackle on seabirds in Queensland. Twelve FLRBs were ​installed across northern Moreton Bay at popular shore-based fishing locations and boat ramps during late 2012. The FLRB program, combined with signage installed as part of the project, informed recreational fishers as to the consequences of discarding fishing tackle into the environment and also allowed fishers to discard unwanted tackle in a responsible manner. 

This project was initiated after Sunfish Queensland’s Scientific Officer, Dr. Barry Pollock, highlighted published material that reported the serious injuries that can occur when seabirds become entangled in recreational fishing equipment that has been discarded into the environment. This was confirmed by numerous wildlife rescue agencies, who stated that hundreds of birds are rescued each year suffering terrible injuries when fishing lines are caught on limbs and wings or when hooks and other tackle are swallowed. 

The objectives of the project were: 1) quantify the number and species of birds affected by recreational fishing tackle; 2) convene a stakeholder workshop to discuss methods for mitigating seabird entanglements; and 3) promote the responsible removal of discarded fishing tackle from popular fishing locations in northern Moreton Bay.

Apart from the FLRB program, signage, a media release and a radio interview were used to educate recreational fishers of the consequences of discarding fishing tackle carelessly. However, although difficult to prove, the most effective extension method was the FLRBs themselves. Their presence, in combination with the signage installed, prompted people to think about issue of discarded fishing tackle. Conversations with recreational fishers at places like the Bongaree Jetty revealed that they had no idea so many birds are affected by the discarded tackle and most fishers said they would be more responsible when discarding unwanted tackle. The addition of the signs at these locations partway through the FLRB program had a positive effect, with far less general waste being placed in the bins once the signs were installed.​

Overall, it is obvious that recreational anglers are having an impact on the environment, despite the protestations of some recreational fishers who believe projects such as this are “a waste of the Governments’ money” or that the problem “will go away when the money dries up”. However, given the number of seabirds rescued as a result of interactions with discarded recreational fishing tackle and the amount of unwanted fishing tackle that was collected as part of the FLRB program, these statements are plainly inaccurate.

It is likely that the irresponsible discarding of unwanted fishing tackle is limited to occasional fishers, with most experienced anglers falling into the “stewards of the sea” category and, consequently, are unlikely to discard fishing tackle carelessly into the environment. As such, the education program designed as part of this project was directed at fishers at shore-based locations within the study area or at boat ramps.