Solid discs only!

Curiosity can kill. Seals learn through play and explore things they find in the sea. They swim over, under, round and sometimes through these objects of interest. With unbreakable plastic, this can be life threatening.
In one week, Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust (CSGRT) volunteers Andrea and Vanessa collected 6 flying rings from a single Cornish beach.

Triangle of 6 flying rings photographed on the floor

Andrea & Vanessa removed 6 rings in 1 week from 1 beach

Photo of over 30 flying rings to show their range of colours and styles

Shocking – all these rings are from 1 beach in 1 year!

This is an ongoing issue and we are obviously not as good at throwing flying rings as we like to think we are!

They are easily misdirected or caught by a gust of wind and before we know it they can be lost. If they end up in a river or stream, they may be impossibly to retrieve and will eventually end up in the sea, posing a risk to our globally rare seals! Andrea and Vanessa beach clean all year round and incredibly the photo above shows just how many flying rings they have removed from one Cornish beach in one year!

CSGRT are hugely thankful they removed all these flying rings as in March 2021, CSGRT recorded our first ever flying ringed seals in Cornwall – and two for the price of one – Splits and JD. CSGRT’s photo ID team have been delighted to record that both are now free of their rings and JD (who was successfully rescued by our partners British Divers Marine Life Rescue) has  been photographed multiple times back at West and North Cornwall (his usual commuting patch) thriving without his ring!

Dark brown young seal with a green flying ring caught around his neck

Juvenile male seal ‘JD’ caught in a flying ring

Spotty young seal with a blue flying ring trapped around her neck

Juvenile female ‘Splits’ won’t make old bones without rescue

These young seals are just two examples of seals suffering as a result of flying rings, but sadly there are many more. This is a nationwide issue that was first identified by one of our partner groups – ‘Friends of Horsey Seals’. They have been rescuing ‘ringed’ seals for many years and have worked hard to raise awareness about the risks involved, producing an excellent and informative leaflet about the issue. Click here to download their leaflet. They will be launching a new parliamentary petition in Feb 2024 set up to bring this issue to attention of our MPs.

We know how easy it is to miss throw a flying ring, which is why we ask that you only play with solid discs on the beach or near waterways. As any looped item is a threat to wildlife, please make sure when you go home that you take everything away with you. Any looped item left on a beach can result in hideous injury or even death for a wild animal. The photos below show where some of our flying rings end up! This is an easy problem to solve and you can be part of the solution. Tell all your dog loving friends too!

Photo of spotty female seal lying within 3 feet of a blue flying ring

Adult female Bilberry resting near a risky ring

Photo of blue flying ring within a few feet of 2 sleeping brown male seals

Flying ring washed up on seal haul out beach

So, CSGRT (also known as the Seal Research Trust – our national operational name) have decided to make sure Splits and JD have not suffered in vain. We have run an awareness raising campaign to help people understand this life threatening issue and to make suggestions about ways for us all to help eliminate this risk from our oceans.

Behind the scenes, we had a team of volunteers working on a toolkit of resources for us all to use. A local graphic designer created two posters for us pro bono and we have drafted potential letters for small coastal retailers (to request they only sell solid flying discs or to thank them if they already do this), for major retailers, holiday letting companies (to put in their holiday homes), schools and vet practices to raise awareness and spread solutions. SRT volunteers and rangers are always happy to follow up with zoom based talks about seals across the UK, especially for school groups.

So, now we need your help!

Might you be able to help distribute and use these resources in your local area on behalf of us all at the Seal Research Trust and Seal Alliance?

Could you take one of the posters to local retailers, pet shops, vet practices and/or schools and use/amend the wording from the letters to highlight the issue with people or perhaps email/post them instead?

They key thing for all this work is for our contact to be kind, forgiving and empathetic, remembering that for most people, this will be the first time they have even thought about flying ring toys being a risk at all. Always aim to be open, smiley, friendly and welcoming as you approach AND as you leave, appreciating that not everyone will agree with us or have the same opinion. Walk away smiling in the knowledge that you did at least try!

All the resources we have created are available to you download online. Click here to access all our resources in our shared googledrive.

Let’s all take action together and nationally!

Join the growing movement to make flying rings a risk of the past!

Special thanks to our all Conservation Team volunteers: Aidan, Andrea, Andy, Emma, Gareth, Jenny, Jeremy, John, Joyce, Kate, Louise, Malcolm, Rob, Sarah, Sue and Teresa for their hard work to get us to this point and ready to share all these resources with you! Thank you to everyone in the Seal Alliance who have shared this campaign nationally. Seals (and other marine life) are safer because of your efforts.



DO NOT SCROLL DOWN if you think this might distress you!

For those people who don’t believe us about the risks posed by flying rings to seals (and lots of other marine life), we can share this definitive proof. Kate Wing was out on a morning walk and was absolutely horrified to discover the lump on the beach ahead of her was in fact a dead adult female seal remains with an intact flying ring still around her neck. Kate took these photos and was inspired to create the parliamentary petition as a result!

PLEASE DON’T LOOK if it will upset you!

Distressing photo of a dead adult female seals decomposing on a beach with a plastic flying ring still around its neck

Dead adult female by Kate Wing on Pakefield Beach

Distressing photo of a dead adult female seals decomposing on a beach with a plastic flying ring still around its neck

Dead adult female by Kate Wing on Pakefield Beach