Saving seals from marine debris

It is estimated over 300 seals may become entangled in marine debris at Seal Rocks every year. Your donation will give Phillip Island Nature Parks scientists more opportunities to save these seals from entanglements. 

An estimated 8.4 tonnes of plastic enter our marine environment from land-based sources each year (Lawson et al. 2015). Marine wildlife interact with this marine debris, including almost half of all marine mammal and seabird species, such as seals and penguins, and over 85% of sea turtles (Lawson 2015). It is expected by 2050 nearly all seabird species will be impacted by marine debris (Lawson et al. 2015). 
Seal Rocks, just off the coast of Phillip Island is home to Australia's largest colony of Australian fur seals, supporting an estimated 30,000 individuals. Seal Rocks is an important breeding ground, with pups born during November and December and nursing from their mothers for for 10–12 months (McIntosh et al. 2015). Marine debris poses a significant threat to seals, paricularly pups and juveniles which are very playful and inquisitive (McIntosh et al. 2015). 
It estimated that 302 seals at Seal Rocks become entangled in marine debris every year (McIntosh 2015). Seals may accidentally become entangled by swimming into unseen material, or through misadventure or investigative behaviour (McIntosh 2015). Seals are not usually able to remove entanglement, over time entanglements become tight, cut through skin and can embed in the skin (McIntosh et al. 2015). Entanglements are often fatal, causing starvation, infections, strangulations, drowning, increased vulnerability to predators or a combination of effects (McIntosh et al. 2015).
Phillip Island Nature Parks research scientists visit Seal Rocks several times throughout the year to check seals for entanglements. Every effort is made to temporarily catch entangled seals and free them from the debris, effectively saving their lives. So far, the team has been able to successfully remove between 20% - 100% of entanglements (McIntosh et al. 2015). Each trip to Seal Rocks costs approximately $3500 (??). Our aim is to fund further trips to Seal Rocks so the research team can save more seals from marine debris entanglements. 
This Christmas, adopting a little penguin will help save seals from marine debris entanglements. Your donation will allow research scientists to visit Seal Rocks on two - three more occassions at crucial times (during the time when pups and juveniles are very active) to assess, study and remove marine debris entanglements. Understanding the effects of marine debris entanglement on the Australian fur seals can lead to more effective management of the sources of debris and the wildlife that
interact with it (Lawson et al. 2015This Christmas, adopting a little penguin will help save seals from marine debris entanglements. 



seal pup 2 resized2An estimated 8.4 million tonnes of plastic enter our marine environment from land-based sources each year [1]. Marine wildlife interact with this marine debris, including almost half of all mammal and seabird species, such as seals and penguins, and over 85% of sea turtles [2][3]. It is expected by 2050 nearly all seabird species will be impacted by marine debris [3] [4].  


Seal Rocks, just off the coast of Phillip Island is home to Australia's
largest colony of Australian fur seals, supporting an estimated fur seal entanglement230,000 individuals. Seal Rocks is an important breeding ground, with pups born during November and December and feeding from their mothers for 10–12 months [5]. Marine debris poses a significant threat to seals, particularly pups and juveniles which are very playful and inquisitive [6] [7] [8]

An estimated 302 seals at Seal Rocks become entangled in marine debris every year [9]. Seals may accidentally become entangled by swimming into unseen material, or through misadventure or investigative behaviour [9] [10]. Seals are not usually able to remove entanglements, over time they can become tight, cut into and become embedded in the skin [9] [11]Entanglements are often fatal, causing starvation, infections, strangulations, drowning, increased vulnerability to predators or a combination of effects [10] [12].

Phillip Island Nature Parks research scientists visit Seal Rocks several times throughout the year to check seals for entanglements. Every effort is made to temporarily catch entangled seals and free them from the debris, effectively saving their lives. So far, the team has been able to successfully remove between 20 and 100% of the entanglements from seals each trip, with an average of 55% removed since 1997 [9]. Each trip to Seal Rocks costs approximately $2500 per day and $3500 if it requires an overnight stay.

 
fur seal entanglement 2Understanding the effects of marine debris entanglement on the Australian fur seals can lead to improved management of the sources of marine debris as well as the marine wildlife that are impacted by it [13].  


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[1] Jambeck, J.R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T.R., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., Narayan, R., Lavender Law, K., 2015. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science 347 (6223), 768–771.
[2] Laist, D.W., 1997. Impacts of marine life in marine debris including a comprehensive list of species with entanglement and ingestion records. In: Coe, J.M., Rodgers, D.B. (Eds.), Marine Debris.
[3] Schuyler, Q., Hardesty, B.D., Wilcox, C., Townsend, K., 2014. Global analysis of anthropogenic debris ingestion by sea turtles. Conserv. Biol. 28, 129–139.
[4] Wilcox, C., Heathcote, G., Goldberg, J., Gunn, R., Peel, D., Hardesty, B.D., 2014. Understanding the sources and effects of abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear on marine turtles in northern Australia. Conserv. Biol. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12355.
[5] Warneke, R.M., 1982. The distribution and abundance of seals in the Australasian region, with summaries of biology and current research. Mammals in the seas FAO fisheries series No.5 vol. 4. FAO, Rome, pp. 431–475.
[6] Page, B., McKenzie, J., McIntosh, R., Baylis, A.,Morrissey, A., Calvert, N., Haase, T., Berris,M., Dowie, D., Shaughnessy, P.D., Goldsworth, S.D., 2004. Entanglement of Australian sea lions and New Zealand fur seals in lost fishing gear and other marine debris before and after government and industry attempts to reduce the problem. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 49, 33–42.
[7] Moore, E., Lyday, S., Roletto, J., Litle, K., Parrish, J.K., Nevins, H., Harvey, J., Mortenson, J., Greig, D., Piazza, M., Hermance, A., Lee, D., Adams, D., Allen, S., Kell, S., 2009. Entanglements of marine mammals and seabirds in central California and the north-west coast of the United States 2001–2005. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 58, 1045–1051.
[8] Waluda, C.M., Staniland, I.J., 2013. Entanglement of Antarctic fur seals at Bird Island, South Georgia. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 74, 244–252.
[9] McIntosh, R. R.; Kirkwood, R.; Sutherland, D. R.; Dann, P. (2015). "Drivers and annual estimates of marine wildlife entanglement rates: A long-term case study with Australian fur seals". Marine Pollution Bulletin. 101 (2): 716–725. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.10.007
[10] Fowler, C.W., 1987. Marine debris and northern fur seals: a case study. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 18, 326–335. 
[11] Feldkamp, S.D., Costa, D.P., DeKrey, G.K., 1989. Energetic and behavioural effects of net entanglement on juvenile northern fur seals, Callorhinus ursinus. Fish. Bull. 87, 85–94.
[12] Campagna, C., Falabella, V., Lewis, M., 2007. Entanglement of southern elephant seals in squid fishing gear. Mar. Mamm. Sci. 23 (2), 414–418.
[13] Lawson, T. J.; Wilcox, C.; Johns, K.; Dann, P.; Hardesty, B. D. (2015). "Characteristics of marine debris that entangle Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) in southern Australia". Marine Pollution Bulletin. 98 (1–2): 354–357. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2015.05.05