Seal conservation groups are asking beach goers not to use ‘flying rings’ after a spate of seal deaths and injuries resulting from the use of what are essentially Frisbees with a hole in the middle.
“Lost flying rings float and get washed ashore, when seals may get them caught around their necks, which can result in a slow and agonising death as the ring literally strangles them slowly,” says Jacki Sime of Pembrokeshire Seal Research Trust.
“Even if the flying ring doesn’t cause strangulation, it can cut deep into a seal’s neck, rubbing it raw, which can lead to life threatening infection as well as hindering the seal in moving, feeding and the ability to float upright and breath while sleeping, resulting in a protracted decline in wellbeing and health”
Lost flying rings can remain in the coastal environment for many years, all the time a hazard to seals and other marine life.
Jacki points out that “Numerous seals and seal pups have been found around the UK coast with flying rings caught around their neck or body – they’re very inquisitive creatures and like to investigate and play with floating objects, which is when this happens”.
Juveniles are particularly susceptible as a smaller seal can push its head through a smaller flying ring, and as the seal grows the ring tightens and becomes more debilitating and damaging over time, causing long term suffering and, eventually, a painful death.
“We’re not asking people to stop having fun on the beach, but rather than use a flying ring we’d ask that they use a traditional Frisbee instead,” says Jacki.
A campaign to raise public awareness – ‘Say No to the O’ – was started in 2019 by Friends of Horsey Seals in Norfolk, and seal conservation groups are looking to expand it after the recent well publicised rescue in Cornwall of a female seal called ‘Wings’, who had lived with a flying ring caught around her neck for several years.
Currently, national retailer ‘Pets at Home’ has stopped selling flying rings and Asda is removing all flying rings for sale in their coastal outlets, whilst many independent retailers around the UK have permanently stopped selling flying rings.
Pembrokeshire Seal Research Trust is appealing to members of the public and retail outlets to help make Pembrokeshire, a stronghold for breeding grey seals, ‘flying ring free’.
For more information about flying ring issues, ocean waste and lost fishing gear entanglement please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Pics by RSPCA East Winch