Dumping Ground for Marine Debris

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Huge, whiskered male fur seals called “beach masters” are back on St. Paul Island after swimming a gantlet of lost or discarded fishing gear floating in the Bering Sea.

The males, weighing up to 600 pounds, arrive at the island’s rookeries in May or early June and wait for the females to come onshore to give birth and complete their harems. The scene at first appears idyllic on the treeless, wind-swept island, home to the world’s largest population of fur seals.

But a closer look unveils an ugly truth. The fur seal rookeries of St. Paul are an unintentional dumping ground for tons of debris, from plastic bottles and tires to netting and rope in which some seals become fatally entangled.

Some of the junk comes from the domestic fishing fleet