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National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Regional Office

Marine Mammal Entanglement

Pinniped Entanglement in Marine Debris


The Marine Debris Threat

Marine debris adversely impacts at least 260 marine species, including marine mammals, sea turtles and seabirds. Marine debris is any man-made object discarded, disposed of, or abandoned that enters the marine environment. Every year many seals and sea lions in Alaska unnecessarily suffer or die from ingesting fishing gear or getting caught in marine debris.

Please let NMFS know if you see injured, entangled or dead marine mammals in the water or on the beach.

Types of Marine Debris

Steller sea lion with material embedded in its neck.
Material looped around a marine mammal’s neck often becomes too deeply embedded to identify like in this photo of an entangled Steller sea lion.
entangled Steller sea lion
Steller sea lion with neck wounds from a black rubber band.

LOOPED MATERIAL: Some of the deadliest marine debris is likely to wrap around the neck of the sea lion or seal. The materials that most commonly cause neck entanglements are:


Steller sea lion entangled in a net Deceased Steller sea lion entangled in a net.

  HOW YOU CAN HELP!

  • Loose the loop! CUT ANY LOOP that may become marine debris
  • Go bandless. Eliminate the use of packing bands
  • Keep marine debris (especially loops and lines) out of the ocean and off the beaches
  • Support the development of biodegradable fishing gear
  • Support recycling of monofilament line
packing bands around a bait box Packing bands cause more than 50% of neck entanglements of Steller sea lions in Alaska.
rubber bands used on crab pots Large black rubber bands are often used on sport and commercial crab pots
ropes Rope/line
fishing nets Nets
Monofilament. Photo: Ocean Conservancy Monofilament line

SWALLOWED MATERIAL: Swallowed material includes hooks, lures and line. These can be “silent killers”, causing unseen injury and death from within. Ingested fishing gear is usually:

  • Salmon fishery hooks and flashers (lures)
  • Longline gear
  • Spinners/spoons
  • Bait hooks
Steller sea lion with embedded hook and flasher
Steller sea lion entangled with flasher and hook.
Steller sea lion jaw showing decay from hook
Steller sea lion jaw bone with decay from an embedded hook. Photo: Rod Palm
Xray of hooks in Steller sea lion stomachA Radiograph showing swallowed hooks. Photo: F. Gulland, Marine Mammal Center

Identifying Causes and Finding Solutions - Video

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Sea Gypsy Research teamed up with Moore and Moore Films and Marni Productions to produce the following educational video. The video describes how sea lions become entangled, the most common sources of entangling debris, and what you can do to help reduce the number of entanglements. WARNING: some of the entanglement images may be disturbing. (external link)


How to Report Entangled Marine Mammals

Please let us know if you see injured, entangled or dead marine mammals in the water or on the beach. The most important information to collect is the date, location of animal (including latitude and longitude), number of animals, and species. Please don't move or touch the animal.

Stranding Report Phone Numbers
(for the general public)
entangled ringed seal Entangled ringed seal. Photo: ADF&G.
  • NMFS statewide 24-hour Stranding Hotline: (877) 925-7773 or (877) 9-AKR-PRD
  • Protected Resources Office:
    • Juneau: (907) 586-7235
    • Anchorage: (907) 271-5006
  • Alaska SeaLife Center Stranding Hotline: (888) 774-7325

Online Stranding Report Form
(for the general public)

Project Coordinators


The Alaska Pinniped Entanglement Group is a collaborative effort between the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island, and NOAA Fisheries.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game logo Aleut Community of St. Paul Island Ecosystem Conservation Office logo NOAA Fisheries logo lose the loop logo

Fur seal photos taken under NOAA research permit numbers 876 and 782-1708, Steller sea lion and ring seal photos taken under ADF&G research permit numbers 358-1888 and 358-1787. Thanks to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Alaska Saint Paul Tribal Government ECO.


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