Shock images of seals on British shores being suffocated by plastic

Shocking images of seals on British shores being suffocated by litter and fishing nets reveal the horrific impact plastic pollution has on animals

  • Sightings come as the RSPCA reported the number of animals affected by plastic litter is at an all-time high
  • Alarmingly, the UK animal welfare organisation recorded a rise in incidents from 473 in 2015 to 579 in 2018
  • Local volunteers have launched leaflet campaign to encourage people to take avoiding causing harm to seals

Two seals with plastic flying rings stuck around their necks and two tangled in netting have been spotted by shocked volunteers on the Norfolk coast.

David Vyse, of the Friends of Horsey Seals wildlife group, said sightings were reported in the last fortnight in the Horsey area.

The volunteers have helped to rescue three seals with their necks trapped in flying discs to date, but only after they weakened enough to be caught. The four animals seen in the recent sightings remain in the wild.

The sightings come as the RSPCA reported the number of animals affected by plastic litter is at an all-time high.

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Needless: A grey seal with fishing net tangled around its neck amongst the colony on the beach at Horsey in Norfolk, as RSPCA data show the number of animals affected by plastic litter is at an all-time high, with incidents increasing by 22% in just four years

Tortured: Researchers have recently been counting the number of harbour and grey seals basking on the banks of the Thames for an annual census, but instead found some of them suffering 

Struggling: A grey seal with a plastic frisbee stuck around its neck and unsuccessfully wrestling with the toy

WHAT ARE THE STATS? 

The number of animals affected by plastic litter is at an all-time high. 

The RSPCA recorded a rise in incidents from 473 in 2015 to 579 in 2018. 

Some animals are disproportionately affected by plastic, the charity said, with a fourfold rise in seals.

There were 28 incidents in 2018 compared with five in 2015.

The RSPCA recorded a rise in incidents from 473 in 2015 to 579 in 2018.

Some animals are being disproportionately affected by plastic, the charity said, with a fourfold rise in seals.

There were 28 such incidents recorded in 2018 compared with five in 2015, the RSPCA said.

Local volunteers have launched a leaflet campaign to encourage people to take home flying rings that could harm seals.

In Norfolk there have already been three reported cases of seals who got plastic flying discs stuck round their necks, which then restricted their growth and cut into their flesh. 

Mrs Frisbee was rescued in 2017 and released the following year, and a second seal, called Pinkafo, was rescued last December and released in May.

A third seal was named Sir David, after Sir David Attenborough, whose Blue Planet II series raised awareness of the environmental damage caused by plastic pollution.

The disc was cut off Sir David’s neck by a vet using surgical scissors and he was released back into the wild last month after three months in the care of the RSPCA.

Help: Local volunteers have launched a leaflet campaign to encourage people to take home flying rings that could harm seals

Occurrence: In Norfolk there have already been three reported cases of seals who got plastic flying discs stuck round their necks, which then restricted their growth and cut into their flesh

Awkward: Their strength, huge size (they can weigh up to 680lb) and timidity makes them extremely dangerous to humans, and rescuers have to wait until they are nearly dead before acting

Their strength, huge size (they can weigh up to 680lb) and timidity makes them extremely dangerous to humans, and rescuers have to wait until they are nearly dead before acting. 

Alison Charles, manager of the RSPCA’s East Winch Wildlife Centre, explains: ‘The problem is that younger seals, the adventurers, see these frisbees in the water and want to play with them.

‘The frisbee slips over their heads — and once it’s on, it stays on.’

It becomes embedded in the animal’s flesh, causing horrendous injury and infection, weakening the animal so it cannot feed or breathe. It’s a long, slow and very painful death.

Terrible: The frisbee becomes embedded in the animal’s flesh, causing horrendous injury and infection, weakening the animal so it cannot feed or breathe. It’s a long, slow and very painful death

Shock: The RSPCA has seen the mammals trapped in everything from huge sheets of plastic and netting to discarded bikinis

WHAT DOES DEEP-SEA DEBRIS DATABASE REVEAL ABOUT OCEAN PLASTIC POLLUTION?

Plastic pollution is a scourge that is ravaging the surface of our planet. Now, the polluting polymer is sinking down to the bottom of the ocean. 

The deepest part of the ocean is found in the Mariana Trench, located in the western Pacific Ocean, to the east of the Mariana Islands. It stretches down nearly 36,100 feet (11,000 metres) below the surface.

One plastic bag was found 35,754 feet (10,898 metres) below the surface in this region, the deepest known piece of human-made pollution in the world. This single-use piece of plastic was found deeper than 33 Eiffel towers, laid tip to base, would reach.

Whilst the plastic pollution is rapidly sinking, it is also spreading further into the middle of the oceans. A piece of plastic was found over 620 miles (1,000 km) from the nearest coast – that’s further than the length of France.

The Global Oceanographic Data Center (Godac) of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (Jamstec) launched for public use in March 2017. 

In this database, there is the data from 5,010 different dives. From all of these different dives, 3,425 man-made debris items were counted. 

More than 33 per cent of the debris was macro-plastic followed by metal (26 per cent), rubber (1.8 per cent), fishing gear (1.7 per cent), glass (1.4 per cent), cloth/paper/lumber (1.3 per cent), and ‘other’ anthropogenic items (35 per cent).

It was also discovered that of all the waste found, 89 per cent of it was designed for single-use purposes. This is defined as plastic bags, bottles and packages. The deeper the study looked, the greater the amount of plastic they found. 

Of all man-made items found deeper than 20,000 feet (6,000 metres), the ratios increased to 52 per cent for macro-plastic and 92 per cent for single-use plastic.

The direct damage this caused to the ecosystem and environment is clear to see as deep-sea organisms were observed in the 17 per cent of plastic debris images taken by the study.

 

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