Endangered Pelican and Sea Gull Eggs Stolen
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Eggs plundered from the nests of endangered brown pelicans and laughing sea gulls were swiped by fishermen who planned to eat them, federal wildlife authorities said.
Acting on a tip, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents boarded the 65-foot trawler Gypsy Wind on Thursday and seized nearly 200 eggs allegedly stolen from a bird sanctuary near the mouth of the Mississippi River.
The thieves nearly wiped out the hatchling population on the Mud Lumps barrier island by looting 26 of the 27 pelican nests and an unknown number of laughing sea gull nests, wildlife service spokesman James Bartee said Friday.
Eighty brown pelican eggs and 118 gull eggs were recovered. The laughing sea gull is protected under federal laws. The brown pelican is listed as endangered, Bartee said.
The five fishermen accused of stealing the eggs apparently intended to eat them, he said.
″This stuff has been going on for years,″ Bartee said. ″But we’ve never been able to catch anyone doing it - we always get there too late.″
He did not release the names of the fishermen, but said the trawler was seized.
The fishermen could be charged under the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act, a law dealing with transportation of illegal wildlife, he said.
The eggs are probably a total loss, ″but if there’s any hope at all, we’ll airlift them to Audubon Zoo″ in New Orleans, Bartee said.