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Tackling Animal Suffering Caused By Dangerous Ocean Rubbish

23 November 2012

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) Commits To Tackle Animal Suffering Caused By Dangerous Ocean Rubbish

Every year, millions of marine animals are killed or condemned to a lifetime of suffering by the dangerous rubbish New Zealand and other countries around the globe allow to choke the world’s oceans, sea and shorelines.

WSPA has now produced the first ever in depth report on this issue - ‘Untangled’. This report reveals the truly global nature of the problem. Even though this issue is well documented in environmental and conservations circles, the subject of this animal suffering has not, until now, been included in the conversation. WSPA’s aim is to escalate the issue as a major global animal-welfare problem which governments, industry and the public will need to play a role in solving.

Hundreds of species are affected globally, including many of the oceans most beloved residents such as fur seals, sea lions, humpback whales and turtles. New estimates from our report suggest that between 57,000 to 135,000 seals and large whales are entangled every year.

The report also highlights the specific suffering endured by certain species. For example, a turtle may choke to death on a plastic bag in minutes, while a whale may spend months or even years dragging fishing gear around, suffering appalling wounds before eventually succumbing to infection or starvation due to an inability to feed.

Birds – likely in their millions - often mistake plastic for food and suffer the consequences. Recent studies have shown that for the worst affected species in the North Sea, 94 per cent of birds investigated contained on average 34 pieces of plastic. The average weight of the plastic ingested was 0.3g; scaled up this would equate to an average portion of lunch for a human adult.

Discarded ‘stuff’ from our daily lives is either accidentally or deliberately dumped from land and sea, causing marine mammals, birds, turtles, sharks and other large fish species to become entangled in ropes, nets, packing straps and plastic packaging.

Currents and winds then carry this debris thousands of miles to hotspots like the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’, which contains plastic, chemical sludge and debris with an estimated mass of 100 million tonnes covering an area as large as France and Spain combined.

"Every year, millions of marine animals are mutilated and killed by the dangerous rubbish we leave floating around in the oceans. The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) believes that it is time to tackle this suffering head on - we plan to take global action on this truly global problem, in order to make the seas a safer home for animals”, said Bridget Vercoe, Country Director at WSPA New Zealand.

To build their knowledge, WSPA is organising the first global symposium dedicated to examining the marine debris issue from an animal welfare perspective. Held in Miami, this December 4-6th, the mass brain storm is being supported and endorsed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), plus a range of more than 60 marine debris experts from governments, intergovernmental bodies and research centres.

WSPA expects the symposium to enable sharing of information about the scale and nature of the problem for animals, and to agree animal-focussed solutions. The debate will be framed along the key themes of:

Reducing the volume of marine debris that entangles marine animals
Removing dangerous debris already in the animals’ habitats
Rescuing animals already entangled in marine debris.

“Our symposium represents the first major step in WSPA's new marine debris campaign. It will help us to understand where and how we can take action to stop this indefensible and wholly unnecessary animal suffering,” added Vercoe.

About WSPA (www.wspa.org.nz)
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is one of the world’s leading animal welfare organizations. We have been protecting animals around the world more than 30 years. We passionately believe that animal welfare matters. At WSPA, we will always expose and oppose the exploitation and suffering of animals. We believe animal cruelty must end, whether an animal is living in the wild, on a farm, in our community or affected by a disaster. Today, WSPA works in more than 50 countries, collaborating with local communities, NGOs and governments that can help us change animals’ lives for the better. We also act at a global level, using our United Nations consultative status to give animals a voice.

ENDS

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