International Seal Day: How plastic ‘necklaces’ are killing seals


“You will always be able to tell in the wild if a seal was entangled because they will have a ring around them, a permanent ring,” said Evangelos Achilleos, manager of East Winch Wildlife Center, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and a front-line seal rescuer.

Seals with scars from fishing nets, flying rings and other marine debris are given the name “necklace seals.” Behind the seemingly interesting names, there are countless gory stories of seals.

Sixty-seven percent of aquatic mammals, such as seals, sea lions and walruses, are at risk of entanglement, according to a study conducted in 2019 by researchers at the Mammal Research Institute and the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the University of Pretoria. Until today, however, entanglement caused by marine debris has still been one of the biggest threats to seals.

About 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the ocean each year. According to the Science journal, nearly 2 percent of all fishing gear, comprising 2,963 square kilometers of gillnets, 75,049 square kilometers of purse seine nets, 218 square kilometers of trawl nets, 739,583 square kilometers of longline mainlines, and more than 25 million pots and traps, is lost to the ocean annually.

On this year’s International Seal Day, March 22, CGTN’s Earth Alert program talked to Achilleos to learn about the story of rescuing the “necklace seals.”

About the Earth Alert series

From climate change and plastic pollution to biodiversity loss, CGTN talks to people from across the world whose lives have been affected by these and other environmental issues and seeks possible solutions from experts in each field. In Earth Alert, we talked to Australian experts to learn about a new type of disease caused by plastics in seabirds. We listened to Greenland residents to understand the impact of glacier melting, and we learned from residents in low-lying coastal villages that they are facing sea level rise on their doorsteps. The list goes on. Stay tuned!

Editors: Chen Chen, Xu Wen, Gao Yuxin

Video editor: Chen Chen

Cover image designer: Yin Yating