A gruesome series of photos has brought the plight of the United Kingdom's seals to the fore. In may, marine animal rescuers were notified that an injured male grey seal was spotted off the coast of Boscastle. He had been spotted tangled in a mass of man-made trash, including cast-off fishing nets and lines. Rescuers launched a search for the troubled pinniped but nothing prepared them for what they saw when they finally found him weeks later.
Only a few miles down the coast the seal's lifeless body washed up on shore in a jumble of trash. He hadn't stood a chance. The animal's neck had gotten caught in nearly 80 lbs of floating, plastic netting and other debris that. Once caught in the netting the seal would have quickly been rendered helpless — unable to swim, hunt or dive.
Sign to make out seas safer for the world's marine life.
When rescuers finally recovered the body, the seals head had been nearly torn from its body. The cords of the jetsam likely wrapped around his neck and as he struggled it slowly tore into his skin, eventually killing the poor creature and leaving it almost decapitated.
The huge bulk of netting and debris is known as "ghost gear" fishing gear that, whether by accident or on purpose, has been abandoned by fishing boats and left to aimlessly float in our oceans. The huge plastic entanglements of ropes, hooks, and nettings are death traps for nearly everything it comes into contact with
Nearly 650,000 tons of ghost gear likely ends up in our ocean's every year. The trash not only kills marine animals but it adds to the enormous floating trash dumps like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and then slowly breaks down over time, releasing microplastics into the marine ecosystem.
According to Four Goods, each piece of ghost gear can kill up to 30 and 40 marine animals and together they kill around 100,000 whales, sea lions, and other marine mammals each year. Marine mammals like the unfortunate gray seal that was found dead near Boscastle earlier this year.
Clearly, the amount of fishing gear pouring into our seas is untenable if we ever hope to have healthy oceans once again. Fishing boats must be held accountable for the waste they throw into our seas and forced to pay a price if, for whatever reason, their netting makes it into our oceans. And after the tragic story of the entangled grey seal in Boscastle, the United Kingdom, should be the first to implement such rules and set an example for the rest of the world.
Please sign this petition and ask the U.K. to crack down on fishing gear abandonment and penalize fishing boats continue to use our seas as their own dumping grounds.