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Help reduce entanglement in plastics

Plastic ropes, nets, buoys, and packaging materials make up a huge proportion of the debris on British Columbia’s coast. These plastics can lead to entanglements that choke animals, cause them to drown, create infections, and limit their ability to feed or move properly. Because plastics break down so slowly, the entanglement can become more severe as the animal grows. In fact, the same piece of plastic could debilitate or kill multiple animals.

Lose the loop!

  • Any plastics with a loop have an increased risk of entangling animals. Examples are the handles of plastic bags, six-pack rings, ropes, and plastic packing bands and elastics. Reduce the demand for these plastics and support research and initiatives for replacements. This includes supporting initiatives to reduce plastic debris in the fishing industry. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game found that plastic packing bands were “the most common identifiable neck entangling material for sea lions, followed by rubber bands, net, rope, and monofilament line.”
  • If there are plastics with a loop, cut them so that they cannot entangle any animals, and once cut, ensure they are disposed of properly.
  • Report ghost gear. Ghost gear is fishing gear that has been abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded, and includes netting, line, rope, traps and pots. Report ghost gear via the Ghost Gear Reporting App which allows organizations like those involved in the Government of Canada’s Ghost Gear Fund to act if you cannot remove the gear from the environment yourself. The information you provide via the app is added to an international database to reduce the potential sources of entanglement. Note that commercial fishers are legally required to report lost fishing gear
  • Help clean up additional plastics, especially anything with a loop! You can help by cleaning near your home and by supporting and promoting the efforts of organizations who remove plastics from remote areas. The work of Surfrider Canada and the Clean Coast, Clean Waters initiative includes remote cleanups.

  • Share the data about what you have cleaned up and where it was. This provides evidence of potential sources of entanglement and greater opportunities for education and regulation. These data are collected by Surfrider Canada, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup and, specifically for ghost gear, via the Ghost Gear Reporting App.

    Support sustainable fisheries.

    • If you buy fish, always choose options with an appropriate sustainability label or rating from Ocean Wise, Seafood Watch, or other independent seafood certification organizations. The criteria used to rate how sustainable a fishery is include: if the species is overfished; if there is good management of how the fish are caught or farmed; and if there are impacts to other marine life or the environment. To date, however, there is insufficient research to allow for the consideration of the impacts of plastic pollution in these seafood sustainability ratings.
    • Support small-scale, traceable, local fisheries. In addition to benefits like less fossil fuel use, and directly supporting local economies, knowing who caught your fish enhances accountability for legal and sustainable fishing.

      Support research and technologies that reduce the threat of entanglement.

      • Help by sharing information about how severe the threat of entanglement is. Preliminary research conducted by the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS), in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, found that approximately 50% of Humpback Whales that feed off the coast of British Columbia have scarring from at least one entanglement. This data provides an indication of how serious the risk of entanglement is, but does not reveal how many whales die after becoming entangled. It is impossible to detect all entangled animals, let alone to rescue them. Because of this, the sources and conditions under which entanglements occur must be better understood in order to reduce them. See this link for how you can help the efforts of MERS to reduce the threat of entanglement.
      • Support those using alternative fishing practices and innovations that reduce the risk of entanglement. For example, the Canadian Wildlife Federation is working with commercial fishers to pilot the use of ropeless gear (also known as pop-up fishing gear). It can also be effective to manage the time and locations of fisheries to reduce the overlap with marine mammals.

        Know what to do if there is an entanglement and help inform others.

        • As quickly as you can, report the entanglement with location. For marine mammals in British Columbia call the DFO Incident Reporting Line at 1-800-465-4336. If you do not have cell service, use VHF Channel 16 (Coast Guard). For entangled terrestrial animals, contact the BC Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.
        • Take whatever video/photos are possible to document the entanglement but maintain a distance that doesn’t stress the animal and is in accordance with the Marine Mammal Regulations.
        • If the entangled animal is a whale, remain on site if possible (at a distance) until trained help arrives or another boat takes over tracking, otherwise the chances of relocating the whale are greatly diminished.
        • Do NOT attempt to interact with the animal and remove the source of the entanglement. This is not only very dangerous, it can make things much worse for the animal. For details, see our resource
        • Share this information with your family and friends.

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