Increased incidence of entanglements and ingested marine debris in Dutch seals from 2010 to 2020
In recent decades, the amount of marine debris has increased in our oceans. As wildlife interactions with debris increase, so does the number of entangled animals, impairing normal behavior and potentially affecting the survival of these individuals. The current study summarizes data on two phocid species, harbor (Phoca vitulina) and gray seals (Halichoerus grypus), affected by marine debris in Dutch waters from 2010 to 2020. The findings indicate that the annual entanglement rate (13.2 entanglements/year) has quadrupled compared with previous studies. Young seals, particularly gray seals, are the most affected individuals, with most animals found or sighted with fishing nets wrapped around their necks. Interestingly, harbor seals showed a higher incidence of ingested debris. Species differences with regard to behavior, foraging strategies, and habitat preferences may explain these findings. The lack of consistency across reports suggests that it is important to standardize data collection from now on. Despite increased public awareness about the adverse environmental effects of marine debris, more initiatives and policies are needed to ensure the protection of the marine environment in the Netherlands.
Publication typeJournal article