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More than 1,000 sharks and rays tangled in plastic

Hayley Westcott

BBC News Online

shark entangled in rope
Daniel Cartamil

More than 1,000 sharks and rays have become entangled in plastic debris in the world's oceans, according to scientists at the University of Exeter.

They say the true number is likely to be far higher, as few studies have focused on plastic entanglement among shark and rays specifically.

They're now calling for a "citizen science platform" to be set up online or on smartphones to help crowdsource reports.

Entanglement in ghost fishing gear
Martin Stelfox

The study found such entanglement – mostly involving lost or discarded fishing gear – is a "far lesser threat" to sharks and rays than commercial fishing, but the suffering it causes is a major animal welfare concern.

"The shark had clearly continued growing after becoming entangled, so the rope – which was covered in barnacles – had dug into its skin and damaged its spine," he said.

"Although we don’t think entanglement is a major threat to the future of sharks and rays, it’s important to understand the range of threats facing these species, which are among the most threatened in the oceans."