Whether tossed away thoughtlessly or accidentally lost, “ghost gear” kills.
The Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust is witnessing this first hand as the UK-based conservation charity is saving lives one seal at a time.
Here is one recent rescue of a seal entangled in discarded fishing equipment.
But not every seal is so lucky.
According to World Animal Protection, about 640,000 tons of fish equipment is left in the ocean each year, and that gear “traps, mutilates, and kills hundreds of thousands of animals annually.”
Governments, conservation groups, even seafood companies and the United Nations have joined efforts to clean up oceans — and track down those responsible for dumping.
But until the oceans are fully cleared of old lines and nets, organizations like the Cornwall Seal Group continue to scan the beaches and waterways for animals in need of help.
“We counted 10 different entangled seals,” the group posted on Facebook over the weekend. “Fortunately, not all still had the entangling gear present, but some did and really need help!”
The images are distressing.
Ghost gear is a scourge of the sea leaving wildlife entangled, injured or doomed — and animal lovers frustrated.
Take Lucky Star’s situation.
It took months, but volunteers and officials with the group finally managed to free the seal dubbed Lucky Star earlier this fall.
The juvenile male grey seal was first spotted last May.
“People were so concerned about the horrific sight of this young seal with his plastic noose that CSGRT had 250,000 hits from one photo posted on their Facebook page,” the group explained. “However, his infrequent appearances and disappearances at different places made tracking him very difficult. When he was seen, he would often be heartbreakingly just out of reach either hauled out on offshore rocks or swimming in the sea where it was impossible to get to him.”
It took until October to track him and pin him down long enough to cut him free.
Ordinary folks are asked to help by choosing sustainable seafood brands, putting pressure on governments and companies to step up or by donating toward animal welfare agencies, like Cornwall Seal Group, which are on the ground.
“We are trying to make a difference though to the individuals entangled and seals as a whole by working with World Animal Protection and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative to solve this issue,” the Cornwall group wrote. “We know it cannot be solved by actions in Cornwall alone!”