Tuesday, December 18, 2018
The skye times mobile

A small piece of plastic may have been "instrumental" in the death of a juvenile harp seal.

The seal was found dead on Skye was later necropsied by the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS.)

SMASS described the case as "unusual" - noting that the harp seal was outside the normal range for the ice-associated species.

The animal was likely under a year old and had a small fragment of plastic in its stomach.  The plastic, approximately 6 centimetres square, was lodged in the stomach.

SMASS say the seal was "not a well-thriven animal at all," describing it as in emaciated condition.  

They said: "Seeing the plastic lodged in the stomach was yet another reminder of the impact of plastic pollution in the marine environment.

"Death due to plastic ingestion appears thankfully incredibly rare in cetaceans and seals, but in this case it is plausible this hungry pup mistook this small bit of floating plastic for food.

"Once in the stomach, it would not be broken down, and became partially lodged in the narrow opening into the intestine.

"A healthy fit, pup would probably have been able to safely manage ingesting a fragment of plastic this size, but in an already compromised animal it could have been influential in its death.

"We are in the process of running additional tests, but this case again highlights the problem of marine debris floating around in our oceans - for a weakened seal pup such as this, even a piece of plastic the size of a sweet wrapper is potentially fatal."

Photograph from Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme Facebook page.

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