Local News

The Dangers of Discarded Fishing Line Highlighted in Cormorant Rescue

by Bernie Bell

Monday, the 28th of August – we’d been for a walk round the Loch of Ayre, Holm and were coming back along the side of the Loch nearest to the road when we saw a Cormorant, struggling.  It was between the edge of the water and a big patch of Flag-irises.

We could see a length of fishing-line between the bird and the irises.  Mike approached very carefully and could then see that the line was attached to the bird.  He stood back, away from the bird, and called to me to go to the car and fetch the spare waterproof jacket we keep in the boot  – which I did.  Mike then carefully placed the jacket over the bird’s head, and it became completely still so he could have a better look at what the problem was.

Mike Bell putting a cover around the cormorant
Image credit Bell

The fishing -line was wrapped round its body, twice, and once round one of its wings.  The problem was – how to cut it?  Mike had a brain-wave.  I threw the keys to him, and he used the edge of a key to cut the line and succeeded in removing all of it and winding in the excess from among the irises – the bird stayed absolutely still throughout the procedure.

Mike Bell bent over the covered cormorant at the side of the loch
Image credit Bell

He carefully lifted the jacket from the bird, which flapped off across the Loch to join its mate.  We watched them for a while and both were swimming about, heads up – looked fine. 

In a way it was a good thing that the line had tethered the bird as if it had attempted to fly away with the line around its body and wing, it probably wouldn’t have lasted long. 

It’s also a good thing that Mike’s time working at the Wildfowl & Wetland’s Trust, Slimbridge meant that he knew what to do – how to quiten a distressed bird. 

This incident made me angry – very angry.  Some fisherman/woman?  Was careless with their line, caused distress and could have caused suffering, injury and possibly death – needlessly. 

Fortunately,  Mike rescued the Cormorant who returned to its mate and they’ll probably go on to produce more Cormorants! 

I’m not making light of this – it’s a serious issue.  Shame on that person – shame on them.

Mike Bell holding the fishing line
Image credit Bell

5 replies »

  1. Well done for releasing the Cormorant, but I think you should be careful about shaming people without knowing the circumstances. People fishing can “lose” lengths of line for several reasons, it’s not necessarily “discarded”. At the time of the loss, it may not have been possible to retrieve the line.

    • True, loss of line can often be unintentional. In this case, the entanglement of the line in accessible bankside vegetation, high and dry from the water, suggests that the line could have been retrieved, so ‘discarded’ is apt.

  2. PS
    I should have mentioned that we then walked down through the village to the public toilets at the pier to thoroughly wash our hands – Bird Flu is still with us.

    It was a strong, healthy bird – but still – a thorough wash-up was a good idea.

    • Hi Bernie

      Please pass my thanks on to Mike for releasing the Cormorant from its entanglement.  It was one of currently 20 birds using the Loch to feed.   As far as I understand it the bird ( and line) were not in the water when found. Cormorants very rarely use the bank of the loch for feather drying or resting so my best guess is that the entanglement took place in the water and that the bird  managed to reach the eastern  bank.

      In the last five years , I’ve recovered twenty (20) bubble floats from the Loch of Ayre with various lengths of monofilament and attached hooks , so it’s an ongoing problem.  This shallow weedy loch( in my opinion) is entirely unsuited to this method of fishing but its legal. We’ve even had someone trying to fish with a drone!


  3. Hi Eoin

    I’ve only just seen your comment – and have shown it to Mike.

    You might be pleased to hear that the Angling Times has expressed interest in using this tale to highlight the importance of taking care with fishing line.
    I don’t know if they will do so but – if they do – that’s getting straight to the source of the problem.

    Fishing with a drone? Beggars belief.

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