While filming on the coast of Oregon recently, I captured a disturbing image – a California sea lion with a ring of fishing line wrapped around its neck. The poor guy had obviously dealt with this for a while. I’m sure it had initially slipped around his neck quite easily, but as he had grown, the fishing line had not. Over time, it has gradually cut a deep wound into the blubbery tissue around his neck. And it will continue to do so. It is always difficult to watch animals suffer, especially in such a seemingly needless way. And unfortunately, this is not an uncommon sight along our shorelines. It is hard for wildlife to avoid the booby traps of mankind, and stories like this play out all over the world in an amazing variety of ways. Albatross are accidentally killing their chicks by feeding them plastic debris. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for tasty jellyfish – a mistake even I have made. Once, while filming off the coast of Florida, I carefully positioned myself below a jellyfish so that it was backlit against the suns rays. It really was a beautiful moment, until I realized the jellyfish was a plastic sandwich bag. My point is, wild animals aren’t stupid. Humans are just very good at killing things – even when we don’t try.
It’s hard to change the habits of an entire world. Byproducts of our overpopulation are going to mean environmental casualties on a global scale. But it is still important to understand the consequences of our actions, because it is easy to change our own habits. We can choose what products we buy, and we can choose how we dispose of them. And we can be more conscious of the food we eat. When we stare at the seafood dinner on our plate, we can take the time to know where it came from and how it was caught. That poor California sea lion has long suffered for someone’s seafood dinner. Hopefully it wasn’t mine or yours.