Animal lovers and fastidious fishermen are already aware of the dangers that plastic six-pack drink rings, fishing line, hooks, and rubber bands pose to ocean creatures. However, a far more lethal class of marine debris has appeared on the scene in the form of plastic packing bands. These non-biodegradable loops can ensnare seals and sea lions, causing gruesome wounds, and restrict mobility to such an extent that the animal starves.

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The world’s oceans have an enormous plastic pollution problem. From the gigantic floating patches of refuse swirling in the sea’s currents to pieces barely visible to the naked eye, human junk is entering the aquatic environment and disrupting ecosystems at almost every level. The bits and pieces are often mistaken as food by wildlife, and toxins released as the materials slowly break down can poison a whole host of organisms.

One of the most perilous plastic pieces of trash is the super sturdy and often extremely sharp loops of packing straps used in shipping and bait boxes. According to NOAA’s Marine Debris Blog, these hoops tangle themselves into large balls once in the water, presenting an attractive puzzle for an inquisitive seal or sea lion. Regardless of how they find themselves ensnared, once the packing bands are around their bodies, the plastic can cut off circulation, cut into their flesh, exposing them to deadly infection, or restrict their movement and impair their ability to hunt.

Concerned citizens can help their pinniped pals by cutting any loops, assist with shoreline cleanups, and do their best to reduce and reuse packaging. If you see an injured or entangled animal, call the nationwide National Marine Fisheries Service hotline at (877) 925-7773 or (877) 9-AKR-PRD, or local marine mammal rescue center.

Via the Atlantic

Images via NOAA