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Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy
ISSN: 1388-0292 (Print) 1548-1476 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/uwlp20
Packing Bands Entangling Pinnipeds Around the
World: Global Review and Policy
Elizabeth Hogan & Amanda Warlick
To cite this article: Elizabeth Hogan & Amanda Warlick (2017) Packing Bands Entangling
Pinnipeds Around the World: Global Review and Policy, Journal of International Wildlife Law &
Policy, 20:1, 75-83, DOI: 10.1080/13880292.2017.1309869
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13880292.2017.1309869
Published online: 28 Jun 2017.
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JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE LAW & POLICY
, VOL. , NO. , –
Packing Bands Entangling Pinnipeds Around the World:
Global Review and Policy
Elizabeth Hogan and Amanda Warlick
Marine debris is a signicant and detrimental source of entanglement for marine
animals around the world. Entangling debris includes packing bands, shing gear,
and plastic bags (among other items) and can lead to serious injury, suocation, and
even death. In addition to reducing the ability or likelihood of individual animals
populations. Because entanglement rate estimates typically rely on visual sightings
of live animals, they are likely to signicantly underestimate the scale of the impacts.
Recent studies have documented entanglement rates in wild populations higher
than levels suspected to have population-level impacts (Fowler, 1987;Kraus,1990;
Fowler, 2002; Sayer, 2015), with packing bands and shing gear often being the most
prevalenttypeofentanglingdebris(Hofmeyretal.,2002; Zavadil et al., 2007;and
Raum-Suryan et al., 2009). Cetaceans, seals, sea lions, sea turtles, seabirds, and man-
atees have all been found with scars, wounds, or missing appendages due to entan-
glement. Among pinnipeds, an estimated 58 percent of seal and sea lion species are
known to have been aected by entanglement, including Hawaiian monk seals, Aus-
tralian sea lions, New Zealand fur seals, and various others around the world (Cole
et al., 2006).
Analysis of entangling debris assessed in this study suggests that there are some
commonalities in the physical characteristics of packing bands found entangling
pinnipeds around the world (i.e., color, size). In some cases, these observed pat-
terns are likely due to manufacturing practices, but they can nonetheless inform
future steps and strategies for reducing the prevalence of entangling debris, includ-
ing implementing regulations, realigning economic incentives, establishing indus-
try best practices, and developing innovative alternative materials. One potential
regulatory solution could be to replicate the success of the 1994 Degradable Plastic
Ring Rule (US Environmental Protection Agency, 1994)mandatingthatbeverage
ring carriers be made of photodegradable material that breaks, which breaks down
upon prolonged exposure to sunlight. However, packing bands are used across a
CONTACT Eliazbeth Hogan firstname.lastname@example.org World Animal Protection, Washington, DC
Amanda Warlick ECS, Federal Inc., Seattle, WA, USA.
© Taylor & FrancisGroup, LLC.
76 E. HOGAN AND A. WARLICK
alternative materials match existing functionality would require signicant research,
development, and testing.
Packing bands are often one of the most common types of entangling debris found
on marine animals. The strap typically forms a collar around the neck, or a ip-
per, and tightens as the animal grows, eventually cutting into the tissue to become
embedded in skin, muscle, and fat. Packing bands were responsible for approx-
imately 30 percent of observed entanglements of New Zealand fur seals in New
Zealand and South Australia (Page et al., 2004; Boren et al., 2006). Similarly, 43
percent of 1,033 Antarctic fur seal entanglements on Bird Island, South Georgia,
from 1989–2013, were attributed to packing bands, with signicantly less per year
after 1994 when the use of packing bands on bait boxes was prohibited by the Com-
mission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)
(Arnould & Croxall, 1995; Waluda & Staniland, 2013). Northern fur seals on the
Pribilof Islands were most commonly entangled by packing bands with specic size
and color characteristics (Zavadil et al., 2007).
Packing bands are pervasive in global shipping operations and are used for a range
of products including sh bait boxes. To inform future voluntary mitigation mea-
sures or regulations, it is important to fully understand the specic characteristics
of packing bands found entangling pinnipeds. Here we present a global review and
analysis of packing band material retrieved from seals and sea lions submitted by
stranding response practitioners from around the world. We hypothesized that our
sample of packing bands would have a range of characteristics and that compiling
such a collection could lead to further understanding of their shared features, if any,
that might explain their prominence as entangling debris.
The implementation of prohibitions and voluntary guidelines for disposing of
packing bands is a positive step toward minimizing this threat. Policies established
under CCALMR in 1995 have likely contributed to fewer entanglements through-
out Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters (Waluda & Staniland, 2013), but, unfortu-
nately, these measures are not global, and high entanglement rates persist. Levels of
debris observed on remote islands have not necessarily decreased over the last two
decades, highlighting the continued need for research, management, and conserva-
tion (Ivar do Sul et al., 2011). Monitoring entanglement rates in the wild is the most
eective way to evaluate the potential ecacy of voluntary measures implemented
to reduce the impact of marine debris. Informed by in situ observations and sam-
ples, this kind of review can guide industry practices and can inform international
policies to reduce the prevalence and impacts of marine debris.
To obtain a global sample of entangling material for analysis, samples were solicited
from stranding networks around the world via an email Listserv and other personal
JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE LAW & POLICY 77
communications. The request for samples remained open for a one-year period in
common entangling marine debris materials. Thirteen dierent stranding networks
from 11 locations around the world responded to this request and volunteered to
ship samples of entangling material that had been removed from a marine ani-
mal rescued by their network. The criteria were that the material had to have been
removed from an entangled marine mammal, sea turtle, or sea bird and represented
a documented entanglement case. No specications were made regarding the type
of material that could be submitted. Samples were shipped directly from the partic-
ipating networks to the authors on a rolling basis between July 2013 and July 2014.
In addition to the samples, each stranding network also provided any data they had
collected on each entanglement case, including impacted species, age, sex, injuries,
and the date and location of rescue, if known.
In order to identify any trends in the source of the most common entangling
material, the selected samples were narrowed exclusively to plastic packing bands.
Each entanglement debris sample was assessed for color, structure, and width to
build our catalog and to determine whether there are commonalities in their physi-
cal characteristics. Packing band materials were submitted to the American Chem-
istry Council to determine their precise chemical composition.
Of the total 93 samples that were submitted, 92 were some form of plastic, and
84 were packing bands. Samples were received from Florida, Oregon, California,
Hawaii, Alaska, British Columbia, South Georgia Islands, South Africa, the United
Kingdom, and New Zealand.
4.1 Impacted species
While impacted species included sea turtles (three species) and seabirds (four
species), pinnipeds made up the vast majority of the species with packing band
entanglements, accounting for 71 of the 84 documented cases (Tab le 1). Samples
Tab le . The number of packing band samples found entangling
each of eight pinniped species, with the highest number coming
from cape fur seals and California sea lions.
Antarctic fur seal
California sea lion
Cape fur seal
Guadalupe fur seal
New Zealand fur seal
Northern fur seal
Steller sea lion
78 E. HOGAN AND A. WARLICK
submitted that were removed from whales consisted only of shing gear rather than
packing bands and are therefore not discussed further.
The most common width of packing bands in the sample was approximately 0.25
inches, with nearly half of all packing bands between 0.2 and 0.3 inches wide
(Figure 1). Less than one third of all submitted packing bands were outside the range
of 0.2–0.45 inches wide. These ndings are likely due to the fact that these sizes
are most commonly manufactured or used in sheries and shipping rather than an
inherently higher likelihood of those sizes causing entanglements. However, it is also
possible that this size range does represent bands that are visible and or more attrac-
tive to inquisitive pinnipeds. Assessing the validity of this hypothesis would require
conducting controlled experiments to isolate the potential eect of band width and
to determine whether animals interacted more or less frequently with certain sizes
rather than others.
All but one of the eight samples submitted from a sea turtle entanglement were
narrower than 0.25 inches. This likely speaks to the availability and common use of
narrower bands of this width in green sea turtle habitat locations. However, it could
point to a capacity among sea turtles to more easily avoid wider bands compared
to narrower ones. Such a hypothesis would require additional study, as mentioned
above. In addition to understanding whether certain widths are more likely to entan-
gle certain species, it is also important to understand the severity of the injury caused
by dierent size ranges (e.g., narrower or stier bands being more likely to cut more
deeply into the skin).
Figure . The frequency of pack ing band widths should be within the sample showing the prevalence
of bands measuring less than . inches wide (N=).
JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE LAW & POLICY 79
Tab le . The frequency of colors represented in the packing
band sample, with white, yellow, and blue being the most
∗Three packing bands had a multi-colored pattern.
Each submitted packing band was categorized according to their color, with white,
blue, yellow, and green being the most dominant within our sample. The occurrence
of the various colors of the 84 packing bands are summarized in Tabl e 2 .
Similar to the packing bands sharing a common size, the fact that a few colors
dominate the sample may be due to manufacturing practices rather than the likeli-
hood of attracting inquisitive marine mammals. However, these results align with
similar ndings in studies focusing on debris and sh: blue and yellow plastic items
have been shown to have higher rates of attack and subsequent ingestion by sh
compared with other colors (Carson, 2013).However,whetherthisisduetogreater
availability or a preference on the part of the animal is unclear.
A second study on color anity among a marine mammal species draws atten-
tion to the low number of red bands causing entanglements. An attempt to lower the
82 percent entanglement rate among the North Atlantic right whale (Knowlton et.
al., 2012) led to the discovery via eld trial that ropes of red or orange coloring were
detected by the whales at signicantly greater distances than rope mimics of other
colors. The dierence in color, attributed to a higher contrast of the red/orange rope
mimics against the ambient blue/green oceanic background, allowed the whales to
avoidthepotentiallyentanglingmaterial(Krauset.al.,2014). Red bands caused the
mented mammal entanglements in packing bands.
. Geographical color trends
causing entanglement are found almost exclusively in California. Black bands also
far outnumbered any other color band from California. At this time, it is unknown
why black entangling material is prevalent specically in this region, though possi-
ble explanations could include that it is most economical to purchase or produce,
that there are limited suppliers, or that it is all coming from the same user group or
activity. On the contrary, other locations such as Florida and South Africa yielded a
80 E. HOGAN AND A. WARLICK
wide range of colors. In South Africa, the predominant colors were yellow, white, and
blue. While white bands showed up in several locations, very few blue and yellow
bands were submitted from other regions aside from South Africa. Samples submit-
ted from Alaska (removed from Northern fur seals) were primarily green, possibly
due to limited availability or common industry practices in that area.
Based on chemical composition analysis, 60 percent of the submitted samples were
polypropylene, 30 percent polyethylene, and 10 percent nylon. All of these plas-
tic resins are extremely common, and their production is global in scope. In addi-
tion to the resin, the majority of the packing band samples also contained “ller”
materials, particularly CaCO3(calcium carbonate) and talc. These are commonly
used in many plastics in order to not only lower the cost of production, but also to
enhance the stiness of the plastic (Kingsbury, 2014).Thestiqualityofthesebands
increases the risk to an entangled animal (particularly a juvenile) in that it limits the
capacity of the material to stretch as the animal grows, forcing the material to embed
in the muscle and fat tissue and potentially to cut into arteries, nerves, or organs.
This study is the rst to assess the characteristics of packing bands found entangling
marine animals around the world. While many of the shared qualities in terms of
width and color may be attributed to manufacturing or industry practices, there are
policy implications and possible solutions based on these results.
5.1 Regulatory precedent
The transformation of six-pack beverage ring carriers provides precedence for tak-
ing regulatory action to reduce the impacts of packing bands on marine wildlife.
Since 1989, all recyclable six-pack rings produced in the United States have been
manufactured from photodegradable low-density polyethylene (LDPE) #4. In the
event that a ring carrier made of this material winds up in the ocean, the light weight
and low density of the product makes it likely to oat on or near the surface of the
water, where it will be exposed to ultraviolet sunlight. The photodegradable qual-
ity should mean that this continued exposure to UV light, as well as wind and rain,
will cause the structural integrity of the product to degrade and to break apart in a
relatively short period of time (several months, with variation according to quantity
of sunlight), as opposed to standard polyethylene, which can persist in the marine
environment for hundreds of years (Kershaw et al., 2011).
In addition to 16 state laws, the Degradable Plastic Ring Rule (U.S. Environ-
mental Protection Agency, 1994) and 40 C.F.R. § 238 issued by the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) in 1994 require that all beverage ring carriers sold in
a greater threat to the environment than non-degradable material; specically
“material which, when discarded, will be reduced to environmentally benign
JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE LAW & POLICY 81
subunits under the action of normal environmental forces, such as, among others,
biological decomposition, photodegradation, or hydrolysis” (US Environmental
Protection Agency, 1994). Rather than specify a particular type of degradable
plastic, the EPA requires a degradability performance standard for beverage ring
carriers in order to allow manufacturers the exibility to make use of varied and
While the precise impact of these positive regulatory changes is unknown, 2010
data from the Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Cleanup show entangle-
ments from six-pack carriers to be less than one percent of total recorded marine
wildlife entanglements, reporting a total of just six animals entangled (Ocean Con-
servancy, 2010). In support of that, samples submitted for this study did not include
a single six-pack carrier. Given the documented harm to marine wildlife, including
threatened and endangered species, justication exists to regulate the production of
5.2 Packing bands—limiting and eliminating
An alternative regulatory option was undertaken in Australia, where the use of pack-
ing bands was banned to reduce the incidence of marine mammal entanglement.
The CCAMLR undertook measures in 1988 to improve monitoring and shery
compliance with the provisions of Annex 5 of the Marine Convention for the Pre-
vention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), signicantly reducing the entangle-
ment rate from previous estimates of thousands killed each year (CCAMLR, 1993).
CCAMLR further introduced a measure to phase out packing bands (used primarily
for securing bait boxes) on shing vessels by 1996 (Kock, 2000; Waluda & Staniland,
2013). Entanglement rates of fur seals in packaging bands subsequently decreased
(Kock, 2000; Waluda & Staniland, 2013).
Additional measures in Western Australia had a similar impact. In 2004, marine
debris documented on Australia’s southwest coast revealed a large number of pack-
ing bands. The Tangaroa Blue Foundation traced the use of 12-mm blue bands and
6-mm clear bands to a local rock lobster shery (Government of Australia, 2009). In
2011, the Western Australian Minister of Fisheries banned the use of packing bands
on recreational and commercial shing vessels (Government of Australia, 2009).
These are examples of how changes in policy can minimize or reverse anthropogenic
impacts on the marine environment. While a blanket policy to change the chemi-
cal structure of all packing band material regardless of intended purpose is unlikely
given their sale and distribution across a wide range of uses, it is possible to target
policy at the production of bands used for purposes more likely to end up in the
ocean, such as sh bait boxes.
5.3 Packing bands—are there alternative materials?
Because packing bands are intended for a wider variety of uses, the quality con-
trol standards for their design and structure are more stringent than for six-pack
beverage carriers. However, innovative research in recent years has improved the
82 E. HOGAN AND A. WARLICK
development and production of biodegradable plastic. One feasible option for alter-
native material to replace traditional plastic packing bands is an “oxo-plastic,” where
small amounts of metal salts within the plastic accelerate degradation when exposed
to oxygen. While this new technology does not leave fragments of plastic in the envi-
ronment, the downside is that it is not recyclable. However, recyclability is not the
primary goal for products at high risk of being lost in the marine environment; on
didate for secondary use given the low probability of recovery, transport, and entry
into recycling infrastructure.
These alternative materials show promise as a long-term solution to improving
the sustainability of these products. In the interim, it will be important to pursue
regulatory action. While policy and industry practices can move slowly, change can
wildlife and a problem that can be solved with the right combination of research,
monitoring, and the implementation of measures to mitigate the impacts of marine
debris in the ocean.
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