A group of divers exploring near a Manly beach in Sydney have come across a shark with a frisbee stuck around its neck, in an alarming reminder of how innocuous items can cause harm to native wildlife when discarded.
Yaron Gal was with a group of divers on Wednesday when they spotted a "bright orange thing" in the water near Shelly Beach.
The bright object was actually a frisbee lodged around the neck of a Wobbegong shark.
"We just saw a frisbee and then we saw the shark, captured in this frisbee," Mr Gal told Yahoo News Australia.
Mr Gal said he hadn't been diving for a while but this was the first time he had seen anything like it.
The tour guide told the group the shark was female and would have a limited life due to the frisbee, which was upsetting for Mr Gal.
"I love animals and any animal that actually gets stuck is quite annoying," Mr Gal said. "Because you can't help those creatures."
At the time the diving crew didn't have any gloves, so they weren't able to free the shark.
Leo Guida, from the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said not approaching the animal was the right thing to do.
"If anyone does see an animal in distress like this Wobbegong, as tragic and uncomfortable it is to see, unless you have the appropriate training it's best to not touch the animal because you could hurt it further, or even yourself," he said.
Mr Gal said the shark was reported to the authorities, which Dive Centre Manly also confirmed to Yahoo News.
The 'horrific damage' plastics do to our oceans
Mr Guida said the footage was unlike anything he had ever seen before and was "quite disheartening and really sad to see".
The frisbee could even prove fatal for the animal.
"It can affect the way it swims, which means it's going to use more energy than it has to," Mr Guida explained.
"Wobbegong's are masters of disguise, they're really well camouflaged against their background and having a bright orange frisbee around its neck could make it harder for [the shark] to get prey or could even make it an easy target for an even bigger shark.
"So unfortunately, this is the horrific damage that plastics can do to our oceans."
Mr Gal said the diving guide also believed the shark was likely still growing, so the frisbee could end up suffocating the animal.
The best thing you can do to help sea life
Mr Gal wanted to remind people to be vigilant and careful with rubbish and personal items around waterways.
"Keep the beaches clean, because it [rubbish] can wash to the sea and get to the animals" he said.
"It's avoidable, it's too much plastic released by us. It's just just sad to see those animals in the water that actually helpless."
More information about how people can best protect marine life can be found on the Australian Marine Conservation Society's website.
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