Sea lion tangled in plastic fishing line around its neck

A California sea lion was tangled in a plastic fishing line in Bodega Bay. July 2017 The Marine Mammal Center

About a week after a humpback whale was entangled in shrimp traps gear in Crescent City,  a California sea lion got tangled in fishing lines in Bodega Bay this week. But the animal has not been found and took off in the water with a possibly life-threatening plastic line around his neck.

Members of the Special Rescue Operations team at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito noted that the sea lion, nicknamed B-Dock, had a “monofilament line” wrapped around his neck, cutting into his blubber. As he grows, the line will continue to tighten, potentially causing life-threatening problems for the animal, according to the center’s experts. Members of the public took photos of the injured animal and crews at the center are hoping he re-appears.

Many seals and sea lions see trash as something to eat or play with—not knowing that this new “toy” could end up being fatal, the center said. In 2015, the Center rescued a California sea lion with an entanglement so severe that it had cut deeply into his neck, causing painful scarring and ripping a hole all the way through to his trachea, or windpipe, according to the center. Fortunately, that sea lion underwent surgery and was released back in the ocean.

The center’s experts note that about 10 percent of the marine mammal patients that The Marine Mammal Center rescues are entangled in ocean trash.

“Hundreds of marine mammals needlessly suffer from trash entanglements every year,” Dr. Shawn Johnson, director of veterinary science, said in a statement. “Through these special rescues and support from the public, we’re able to give these animals a second chance.”

Other marine life have suffered similar fates at the hands of humans within the last week, too.

In Crescent City, a whale got trapped for five days in a tangle of shrimp nets and lines. The mammal was finally freed on Wednesday afternoon.

Either way, environmentalists wish that these animal tragedies would stop occurring, especially when many of them seem so preventable - if only humans would better monitor their actions.

“It’s sad to see vulnerable marine life entangled in our society's trash,” said Steve Jones, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity in Oakland. “There’s too much debris in our oceans, from the lost crab lines entangling whales to fish choking on plastic pollution. These problems will only get worse unless we change our ways and protect our oceans. Marine mammals like this poor sea lion deserve better, but we’re happy to see this committed team of rescuers helping to save it."

The center is raising money to continue rescuing mammals impacted by ocean trash.