By: Asma Mahdi
Did your most recent online purchase come wrapped with packing bands? If yes, you’re probably wondering why I’m asking. What if I told you that in Alaska, packing bands are a commonly found marine debris item and can be deadly to wildlife?
It’s true. Plastic packing bands often used to secure shipping or bait boxes are a common cause of entanglement amongst seals and sea lions. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, these bands are the culprit behind more than 50 percent of observed neck entanglements in Alaska’s Steller sea lion population.
Young seal and sea lion pups tend to play with marine debris, not knowing the harm they can cause. Packing bands are sometimes found in the marine environment tangled up in a big ball, which could certainly be alluring to a curious sea lion.
When they do get wrapped around or embedded in a seal or sea lion’s neck, the wound can be horrific and expose the animal to infection. In addition to packing bands, other marine debris such as derelict and abandoned nets, line, and fishing hooks can entangle and strangle seals and sea lions. Marine debris entanglement can restrict mobility, drown, starve or smother marine life.
Here’s a video from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game that helps explain the issue further. (WARNING: some of the entanglement images in the video may be disturbing.)
So how can you help to prevent it?
- “Lose the loop” – cut up any bands that may become marine debris.
- Volunteer for a local shoreline cleanup.
- And don’t forget to reduce, reuse, and recycle packing material.