The RSPCA is joining calls from the Angling Trust for anglers and fishermen to dispose of their fishing paraphernalia responsibly.
The renewed plea comes as recent figures from the animal charity reveal that nearly 600 birds and mammals fell victim to carelessly discarded hooks and lines in just one month this year (2017).
As National Fishing Month gets underway (21 July - 3 September), latest figures from the RSPCA reveal that in 2016, there were 3,803 reports of wild animals caught in fishing litter, with swans (1,298), geese (1,294), ducks (388) and gulls (395) being the most frequent victims. Mammals such as seals (42) and even family pets like dogs (10) and cats (9) were also affected.
And in just one month this year (June 2017), the RSPCA handled 574 reports of animals caught in fishing litter.
Deaths to mammals and birds from raging infections inflicted by discarded fishing hooks or from deep wounds where plastic has cut into their body are frequently seen by the RSPCA. Strangulation by old fishing line is a common cause of death.
Llewelyn Lowen, RSPCA Wildlife Information Officer said
“I would strongly urge those who enjoy fishing to be extra cautious when packing up to make sure no litter is left behind. Most anglers are very responsible when disposing of their litter, but it only takes one careless person to endanger the life of an animal.
“If any member of the public sees discarded litter around if they could pick it up and put it in the bin they may save an animals life.”
Mr Lowen added: “All sorts of litter can cause problems. Line can wrap around necks causing deep wounds in flesh and cutting off the blood supply, hooks can pierce beaks or feet, become embedded in skin or get caught in the bird's throat, and weights can be swallowed causing internal injuries and blockages.”
Dilip Sarkar MBE, Angling Trust Fisheries Enforcement Support Service National Enforcement Manager, who is an advisor to the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit and a retired West Mercia Police officer said: “Responsible anglers leave only footprints and care deeply for all wildlife.
“Indeed, we have worked in partnership with the Swan Convention to issue guidelines regarding what action to take should a swan, for example, ever be found in distress. Moreover, our Volunteer Bailiffs frequently work with our formal partner, the Environment Agency, and police, to report anti-social behaviour and other, wider, offences on our waterways – and often collect litter as a matter of course.
“Unfortunately, as with all things, an irresponsible minority spoil it for everyone, so these people need either educating or prosecuting. Endangering wildlife through any kind of irresponsible behaviour, by anyone, is simply unacceptable.”
If you see an animal you have concerns about please call the RSPCA's emergency line on 0300 123 9999. For more information, visit the RSPCA’s fishing litter webpage at: www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/litter/fishing