Marine debris threatens our wildlife

Department of Conservation —  28/06/2011

The perils of marine debris to our wildlife are fairly well known – be it the plastic filled stomach contents of an albatross, or a penguin nesting with a coke bottle, it’s always pretty gutting to witness.

Entangled fur seal rescued from fishing net

Last week we were lucky enough to make it in time to rescue a fur seal pup which had become entangled in a fishing net here in Wellington.  Quite how the incident occurred we don’t know, but the poor wee thing was pretty raw around the neck as a result of it.

Seal with net around neck

Fur seals can be quite aggressive and give a nasty bite, especially when distressed, so DOC staff were sure to take a cautious approach.

DOC staff, Hawea and Dave, capturing seal

Once released of its unwanted necklace, the feisty wee pup headed off into the Taputeranga Marine Reserve for a swim around and we’re hopeful it’ll make a full recovery.

Unfortunately, other fur seals around New Zealand haven’t been so lucky. This fella was found dead in a similar style of fishing net on Makara Beach – also in the Cook Strait region.

Dead seal entangled in net

You can help our marine wildlife

The good news is that we can all help to stop these things happening. You can:

  • make sure to dispose of you litter carefully;
  • pick up any fishing materials, or other marine debris, when you see it and dispose of it in a bin;
  • get involved with a local coastal care group;
  • take part in a beach clean event;
  • tell your friends and family to do the same.

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Have you ever seen marine debris threatening our wildlife? What did you do?

Learn more

Learn more about the New Zealand fur seal/kekeno on the DOC website.

3 responses to Marine debris threatens our wildlife


    I wrote to the Minister of Fisheries early 2010, after a trek around the northern circuit of Stewart Is. Where I was sickened by the sight of the amount of fishing industry debris on the southern beaches. I asked whether the industry ever did voluntary clean ups of their pollution. The letter was duly acknowledged as received and that was it. Photos of the mess were included, some showing identification on the fish crates.It would have been nice to have received a positive reply re this issue. Do you know if the industry ever does anything about this pollution of theirs ?


      Hi Leo,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      Marine debris is a problem right around the country. DOC is acutely aware that it is not only a eyesore, but it poses a serious risk to our wildlife. We strongly encourage you and others to notify us immediately if an incident like this occurs again: 0800 DOCHOT (0800 362 468).

      You may be interested in the information on the DOC website about organising beach clean-ups.


    Very sad news I’m afraid. Our little rescued fur seal has been found dead. We’re all pretty gutted. As a suspected yearling fur seal, it wouldn’t have been as resilient to trauma as older fur seals are. It was pretty emaciated when we found it this week and it’s possible the wounds inflicted by the fishing net were too much for it.