RSPCA: Reeling in the problem – fears for fishing litter injuries this summer

A cygnet with a float stuck in his throat, a gull with a hook in his left wing and a swan with fishing line stuck in his beak are among the birds which have suffered because of discarded fishing tackle over the past few weeks.

In another case, a goose had line wrapped so tightly round his leg that the circulation was cut off and caused the poor bird to lose his foot.

Every year the RSPCA takes hundreds of similar calls about wildlife injured or even killed by angling litter which has not been properly disposed of.

Last year there were at least 78 animals taken to the RSPCA’s four wildlife centres with fishing related injuries and already this year there have been 43 Incidents. With the schools breaking up this week, it is expected these figures will rise.

Senior RSPCA scientist Adam Grogan said: “We always see an increase in animals injured by fishing litter during the summer holidays when inexperienced anglers are more likely to take advantage of the warmer weather and holiday time.

“Floats get caught in throats, hooks pierce skin and beaks and fishing line frequently gets wrapped around limbs. Swans seem particularly affected by this issue, but we have also seen other animals such as gulls, geese and even the odd owl with serious and often fatal injuries.

“Of course, most people who fish are responsible with their litter and take care to dispose of it properly. But it only takes one thoughtless person to carelessly toss aside a bit of line or float with horrific consequences.”

All of the RSPCA’s four wildlife centres have had birds injured by fishing tackle admitted in recent weeks.

Just last week a cygnet (pictured below) was taken to RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre in Norfolk with a hook still attached to fishing line embedded inside his mouth. An operation was performed to remove the hook, but sadly the baby swan was so weak and emaciated he died shortly afterwards.

Then on Saturday (July 21) a fledgling Herring Gull was taken to Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre in Hastings, East Sussex after a fishing hook got caught in his left wing and fishing line tangled around his body. Fortunately this bird could be saved and is now being nursed back to health by staff ready for release back to the wild.

West Hatch Wildlife Centre in Somerset has also seen its share of angling casualties. An adult male swan was admitted on June 26 with fishing line protruding from his beak after being found on a pond in Martock, Somerset. On-site vets operated on the bird to try and save him but the internal wounds were so severe that sadly he did not survive.

A week later on July 9, a very young cygnet was found from a nearby lake in Drayton Bassett near Tamworth in Staffordshire with a float stuck in his throat. He was taken to RSPCA Stapeley Grange in Cheshire where the float was removed but sadly the damage caused by the float was irreversible and the cygnet died following the operation.

The next day a goose was found on Winterely Pool in Cheshire with fishing line tightly wound around his foot (pictured above). It had cut so deep into his circulation that he had lost his foot and the poor bird had to be put to sleep to end his misery.

There have since been a spate of birds injured at a lake in Priorslee in Telford including a swan and a cygnet with fishing hooks stuck in their tongues. Both birds were rescued and taken to a local vet where the hooks were removed and both birds were given long-acting antibiotics before being released back at the site.

Lee Stewart, manager at Stapeley Grange, said his staff were bracing themselves for more such injuries. He added: “This could just be the beginning. We are expecting many animals with related injuries to be brought to us in the coming weeks, many of which could be fatal.

“What’s so upsetting is how needless the suffering and the deaths are and how easy it would be to avoid them.

“We urge anyone about to go out fishing to make sure they take those extra few minutes to dispose of their litter properly. They could be saving a life.”

The RSPCA has been working with the Angling Trust, the Environment Agency and the National Swan Convention, which represents other swan rescuers, to reduce the impact of lost and discarded fishing tackle which causes injuries to swans and other wildlife.

Anyone who sees an injured bird or animal should call the RSPCA’s emergency helpline on 0300 1234 999.


Notes to editors

Images and interviews available on request

For information about about to dispose of your fishing litter properly, please see

Top tips include:

o Please take unwanted fishing line home and cut it into pieces before putting in the bin.

o Please be aware of surrounding trees – discarded line caught in foliage causes many problems for wildlife.

o Please don’t leave bait unattended – always remove from the hook and put in safe place.

For photos, case studies, statistics about fishing injuries broken down by region and interviews please call the press office.

RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS

Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288  Fax: 0303 123 0099
Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel: 08448 222888 and ask for pager number 828825
Email: Website:

Don't treat animals like rubbish. Thousands of vulnerable animals will be abandoned this summer, many in out of the way places like bins, in skips and on wasteland simply leaving them to die. Will you help us rescue them?