Entanglement in Marine Debris
As non-degradable debris continues to accumulate in the oceans, many types of wildlife are simply unable to avoid encountering them. The most obvious evidence of these interactions are the animals that get sick or die from getting entangled in or consuming debris. Sea lions are curious and playful creatures by nature so it is more likely that they will interact with the marine debris they encounter. Among Steller's, the typical entanglement we see is debris wrapped around the neck or upper body. These entanglements cause a general decrease in quality of life due to physical trauma, infections, and decreased foraging efficiency which can eventually lead to death by illness, starvation, drowning, or predation.
It is unclear whether the additional entanglements observed are due to increasing quantities of debris in the environment, or perhaps a result of a change in the types of debris being encountered. As non-degradable plastic debris continue to accumulate in our oceans, scores of additional marine creatures will become entangled. Also, some types/shapes of plastic debris could harm multiple animals during the decades it takes for them to "degrade" enough to no longer pose an entanglement hazard.
On a positive note, since land-based sources are the major contributor by volume to this global problem, it means that we can all be part of the global solution. We can all reduce marine debris, and ultimately entanglements, merely by 1) cutting loops, and 2) disposing of trash properly. That's right, those 2 simple steps will help safeguard the world's oceans and the creatures that inhabit them! "Lose the Loop and Stash the Trash!"