First documented case of plastic entanglement
Herring gull impeded by string, reported in The Auk, 1 Oct 1947
1947 year(s)
United States (Long Island)

The earliest known recorded case of an animal entangled by potentially plastic waste was documented in The Auk journal on 1 October 1947 by Dr M A Jacobson, when he described a herring gull impeded by a piece of string "about 15 feet long... caught on its foot.... with a piece of unpainted wood hung from the string..." The sighting was made on 26 January 1947 at Breezy Point, Long Island, New York, USA. However, it is not known for certain if this string was definitely plastic or perhaps made from natural fibres. The first definitive record of entanglement with an artificial material was in 1957, recorded as trawl twine off the east coast of Iceland by scientists from the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR), a long-established oceanic survey that is managed by the Marine Biological Association based in Plymouth, UK. The observations of trawl twine is synonymous with the widespread use of plastic for fishing practices in the 1950s as plastic became economical and more efficient to use than natural fibre.

The Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) is a towed marine sampler that has been towed around the North Atlantic since 1931, using ships of opportunity such as ferries and container ships. It is the longest and most geographically extensive marine biological time-series in the world. As well as sampling the plankton, it also picks up debris such as plastics, giving a detailed picture of where and when they were found.

The second earliest record of man-made entanglement on the CPR was recorded as a plastic bag off north-west Ireland in 1965.