Plastic Entanglements Increase 40% For Marine Animals

Source: Ocean Health Index

Written By Dr. Richard Thompson, School of Marine Science and Engineering, Plymouth University

Weaned Monk Seal pup entangled in a line with plastic, found in Midway Atoll, Spring 2013. Courtesy of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Fatal entanglement in and ingestion of marine debris by marine animals has increased by 40% in the last decade, according to a recent Convention on Biological Diversity report that I co-authored with Sarah Gall and Duncan Bury.  Over half of the 280 papers we reviewed documented entanglement and ingestion, impacting 46,000 individuals and 663 species.

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Incidence of entanglements with marine debris by northern gannets (Morus bassanus) in the non-breeding grounds

Source: Marine Pollution Bulletin

Authors: Beneharo Rodríguez, Juan Bécares, Airam Rodríguez, José Manuel Arcos


The quantification of entanglements of megafauna with plastic debris at sea is difficult to assess for several reasons, such as detection and reporting biases. We used standardized vessel based counts to describe and quantify the occurrence of marine debris entanglements in northern gannets Morus bassanus at five of its main wintering areas. We observed 34 entangled birds in total, representing 0.93% of all gannets counted (= 3672 individuals). The incidence of entanglements largely varied geographically, being exceptionally high off Mauritania (20.2% of the birds in late spring). Most birds affected were immature (1.88% compared to 0.06% in adults), which in turn represented 52.4% of all the birds. Entanglements in the lower bill mandible were the most frequent, mainly with red-colored plastic objects. Further research is urgently needed to evaluate the impact of entanglements at the population level and its occurrence in other marine species, and to seek potential solutions.

First record of sea snake (Hydrophis elegans, Hydrophiinae) entrapped in marine debris

Source: Science Direct

Vinay Udyawer, Mark A. Read, Mark Hamann, Colin A. Simpfendorfer, Michelle R. Heupel,  First record of sea snake (Hydrophis elegans, Hydrophiinae) entrapped in marine debris, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 26 June 2013, ISSN 0025-326X


Hydrophis elegans has one lung only, but breathes also through the skin © Giuseppe Mazza

Entanglement in derelict fishing gear and other marine debris is a major threat to the survival of large marine wildlife like cetaceans, seabirds and sea turtles. However, no previous reports of entanglement or entrapment have been recorded in sea snakes (Hydrophiinae). We report here on a sea snake (Hydrophis elegans) found with a ceramic washer encircling its body captured from the north-east coast of Queensland, Australia. The ring had constricted the body and over time caused extensive damage to the underlying tissues. A post-mortem examination showed the snake was severely emaciated as the ring restricted the passage of food to the stomach and intestine. This is the first record of mortality due to marine debris entrapment in sea snakes.

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