Council calls for ban on frisbees after seals' risk exposed

A seal with a flying ring round its neck.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council have written a letter to the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) proposing that the sale of flying rings be made illegal. - Credit: FoHS

A letter has been sent to government officials urging a ban on the sale of frisbees in order to protect coastal wildlife.

Seals along the Norfolk coast have been getting flying ring frisbees stuck round their neck, which can lead to issues with hunting, infections and can cause the animals to die "a long and painful death".

Following an Environment Committee meeting at Great Yarmouth Borough Council (GYBC), the council have sent a letter to the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) proposing that the sale of flying rings be made illegal.

The proposal was made by councillor for Northgate and Central Ward, Carrie Talbot and was given unanimous approval by other members of the committee.

Miss Talbot made the proposal following a presentation of the risks the seal population face with flying rings and other "manmade debris".

Pictured is one of three seals along the Norfolk coast with their heads stuck in a plastic ring whi

A seal along the Norfolk coast with its head stuck in a plastic ring in 2019. - Credit: FOHS

Friends of Horsey Seals (FoHS) have launched a campaign - Flying Rings Kill Seals - raising awareness of the issue and urging beach visitors and shops to refrain from using or selling flying rings close to the sea.

Jennifer Hobson, member of FoHS, said she would be very happy if the plastic rings were not sold close to beached areas.

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"I think they're not appropriate to be anywhere near the sea," Mrs Hobson said.

"They're not safe for wildlife and they're not safe for seals.

"It just doesn't make sense to me - with our current growing awareness and understanding - to use any plastics that could get into the sea.

"This message is for everybody using and enjoying the beaches.

"The injuries flying rings can cause are horrendous and seals can suffer for years and years and even die.

"But we can do something about that.

"Let's carry on helping the seals."

Visiting the seals is a popular Norfolk winter pastime. Here a baby seal pup at Horsey.Picture: Jame

Visiting the seals is a popular Norfolk winter pastime. Here a baby seal pup at Horsey.Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass © 2015

The dangers of flying rings stuck round the necks of seals include restrictions to the neck which can lead to "a long and painful death" through starvation and infection.

Starvation can occur as rings around seals' necks can make it more difficult or impossible to hunt.

Miss Talbot said: “Having seen the posters of the young seal with a ring around its neck, it wasn’t until I watched the Friends of Horsey Seals presentation that I really understood the full extent of the harrowing and life threatening injuries that seals are suffering from, all because of these small plastic rings and frisbees.

“I truly hope that our letter goes towards helping ban the sale of these plastic rings and ensure the damage they can cause seals and other wildlife is eradicated.”

A grey seal pup on the beach at Horsey Gap. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

A grey seal pup on the beach at Horsey Gap. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Paul Wells, chairman of the environment committee, said: “As chairman of the Environment Committee, I was only too happy to formally write to Rt Hon George Eustice MP, secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, asking for the removal of plastic rings and frisbees with holes in the middle of them from sale.

"After viewing a presentation by The Friends of Horsey Seals highlighting their campaign to stop the use of these, due to the environmental impact they have on wildlife, there is no doubt that these objects are plastic pollution which have a direct and deadly effect on the environment.”

Previously, FoHS have been involved in many campaigns - including "Safer Seals" - to help protect local wildlife, including informing people to keep their distance from seals and pups and ensuring dogs do not foul on beaches close to seals.

Flyer for Friends of Horsey Seals.

Friends of Horsey Seals (FoHS) have warned people to avoid getting too close to seals on the beach. It can scare the seals, meaning that pups could be abandoned, and it can even lead to seals harming people. - Credit: Friends of Horsey Seals

More recently, the organisation have said that they will be taking "unprecedented" action to safeguard seals along the Norfolk coast.

Some of these measures included the voluntary closure of Horsey beach during the October half-term holiday.

These campaigns have aimed at education visitors of beaches occupied by seals.

However, despite FoHS's efforts, there were reports of a person harassing a pregnant seal in Horsey and, in October, police were called to assist an elderly seal on Great Yarmouth beach which was seen being hit with stones by a crowd of people.