Photo credit: mikebaird
Humans are definitely responsible for most of [the distressed marine mammals and sea birds along the Pacific coast]. They are still laying fishing nets off the coast of California and animals still drown in them. Those able to fight their way out still have net remnants wrapped around their head and neck, eventually causing them to die from strangulation or infection.
Just last year, this poor sea lion pup had yards of gull netting tangled around his neck, and he had somehow trapped himself on a bell buoy outside King Harbor in Redondo Beach. Baywatch lifeguards contacted me and we set out to save him. The water was really swelling and the boat bouncing like a toy as we tried to reach the seal. But we just couldn’t get close enough. To make things worse, the pup kept trying to jump off the buoy into the water, but was only pulling the nylon cord tighter around his neck. Finally, we were able to rescue him by jumping on the slippery buoy ourselves. We brought him into rehab and two months later he was released.
We see fishing entanglements all the time, as well as fishing hooks in the mouth, eye sockets, etc. Last June, a harbor seal pup swallowed two hooks cast by an angler fishing off the end of Manhattan Beach pier. The angler proceeded to reel the pup 40 feet up and onto the pier. We were able to rescue him. An x-ray later found one hook was actually caught in his esophagus."