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    Entanglement of Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) in man-made debris at Bird Island, South Georgia, during the 1996 winter and 1996/97 pup-rearing season

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    Delegation of the United Kingdom

    The results of the survey of entanglement of Antarctic fur seals at Bird Island, South Georgia for the sixth consecutive winter (1996) and eighth consecutive summer (1996/97) are reported. In winter 17 seals were observed entangled, double the number in 1995 and the third highest total so far. As usual most (88%) entanglements were of juveniles; however one-third were of females, an unusually high proportion. Synthetic string (fishing line) (47%), fishing net (24%) and packaging bands (18 % ) were the main entangling materials, with the abundance of string and fishing net reversed from most previous years. In summer, 27 seals were recorded entangled, the third lowest total and a 21 % reduction from 1996. Most animals involved were juvenile females; the overall severity of injury was the lowest yet recorded. The proportion of entanglements in synthetic string (41 %) was much greater than in recent years, with fishing net (22%) commensurately reduced and packaging bands (33%) similar to last year. The relatively low level of entanglements in summer is encouraging. The increase in winter records, however, is discouraging and fishing vessels are the only likely source of debris at this time. The evidence of continued use and discarding of packaging bands within the Convention Area is of particular concern.