One of the main issues with plastic pollution in our ocean is the entanglement of marine life.  Much of the time this is the result of discarded fishing nets and monofilament line, but often even less likely objects can be hazardous to marine life.  To a seal or a dolphin a plastic rung is something to play with. They have no idea how dangerous the game could turn out to be.

Over 16% (56 species) of seabirds have been recorded to become snared in plastic, either after mistaking it for food, or accidentally swimming into it. Entanglement can lead to injury, infection or drowning of the seabird. Discarded fishing gear and six-pack yokes are the most common causes of entanglement.

Photo Credit: Friends of Horsey Seals

Some seabirds actually become entangled in plastic material that they have used to build their nests.  Grassholm Island off the Pembrokeshire Coast is a sanctuary for wildlife and a nature reserve.  It is home to a large colony of Gannets as well as other birds such as Guillemots.  However, over the last few years the island has changed – due to plastic fishing line and netting.  The birds collect the plastic pollution from the ocean and use it as nesting material.  As a result the island has become transformed, turning into a vivid blue and orange landscape.  It has literally become a nature reserve covered in plastic

Gannet strangled

Unfortunately, while it might be convenient for the birds to pick up, the monofilament fishing line and netting material also creates a dangerous environment, trapping many bird and causing injury or death.  Discarded fishing line in the ocean lasts for hundreds of years and once picked up by ocean currents is distributed around the world.  Unless we somehow regulate the disposal of this product it will always pose a threat to the environment.  There are many small scale monofilament recovery and recycling initiatives around the world but more needs to be done by the sport, industry and government to reduce the harm being caused.

Gannet hanging in plastic fishing line