A WILDLIFE warden says newly-released figures showing the number of animals affected by plastic litter is only the “tip of the iceberg.”

Sarah Dalrymple, warden of South Walney Nature Reserve, has expressed her shock and concern as a study carried out by the RSPCA has revealed the figure in England and Wales is at its highest ever.

The study also revealed there had been a fourfold rise in seals being affected by plastic.

South Walney Nature Reserve is home to the area’s iconic grey seal colony.

She said: “The sands and mudflats around Furness are vitally important for wildlife, seals, fish, and a huge range of bird species.

“We’re seeing more and more plastic rubbish in our sea, and the RSPCA report is really just the tip of the iceberg - there will be many many more incidents occurring that are never seen by people.

“It’s really shocking to read these facts, but hopefully it will inspire us all to do even more to reduce how much plastic we use and recycle what we can.”

RSPCA recorded more than 300 incidents in the North West involving animals being affected by plastics between 2015 and 2018 and also found a 22 per cent increase in just four years across England and Wales.

The charity’s data also reveals that there are certain animals - especially those that live in water habitats - which are being affected disproportionately by plastic.

For example, there has been a fourfold rise in seals affected by incidents involving plastic litter with 28 recorded across England and Wales in 2018 compared to just five in 2015, which is of great concern for Walney’s grey seal colony.

However, the North West has bucked the trend, with plastics incidents slightly down from 76 in 2015 to 71 last year (2018).

A total of 304 incidents were recorded over a four-year period.

RSPCA head of wildlife Adam Grogan said: “This shocking rise in plastic litter incidents suggests that plastic is a growing threat to animals.


“Every year, the RSPCA deals with increasing numbers of mammals, birds and reptiles that have become entangled or affected in some way by discarded plastic.

“From seals with deep infected wounds caused by plastic frisbees cutting into their necks, to swans and geese trapped in fishing line or netting, plastic is clearly having an increasing impact on animal welfare.”

In an attempt to help reduce the impact of plastic on wildlife in the area Sarah Dalrymple, alongside volunteers, are regularly carrying out beach cleans at South Walney and Foulney Island, but she added: “With every tide more is brought in.”