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 million tonnes of plastic enter our marine environment from land-based sources each year . 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 . It is expected by 2050 nearly all seabird species will be impacted by marine debris  .
Seal Rocks, just off the coast of Phillip Island is home to Australia's
largest colony of Australian fur seals, supporting an estimated 20,000 individuals. Seal Rocks is an important breeding ground, with pups born during November and December and feeding from their mothers for 10–12 months . Marine debris poses a significant threat to seals, particularly pups and juveniles which are very playful and inquisitive   .
An estimated 302 seals at Seal Rocks become entangled in marine debris every year . Seals may accidentally become entangled by swimming into unseen material, or through misadventure or investigative behaviour  . Seals are not usually able to remove entanglements, over time they can become tight, cut into and become embedded in the skin  . Entanglements are often fatal, causing starvation, infections, strangulations, drowning, increased vulnerability to predators or a combination of effects  .
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 . Each trip to Seal Rocks costs approximately $2500 per day and $3500 if it requires an overnight stay.
Understanding 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 .
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