Two seals with plastic rings stuck around their necks and two tangled in netting have been seen by volunteers on the Norfolk coast. Volunteer group, Friends of Horsey Seals, said that the sightings were reported in the last fortnight in the Horsey area. The latest case follows three previously reported incidents where a seal was spotted with a plastic disc around its neck.

The volunteer group helped rescue the seals in those three incidents, but only after the animals were weakened enough to be caught. The four animals seen in the recent sightings remain in the wild. The RSPCA recently reported the number of animals affected by plastic litter is at an all-time high.

The charity’s research showed a 23% rise in incidents from 2015 to 2018. The report said certain animals are being affected by plastic, with a fourfold rise occurring with seals. Twenty eight such incidents were recorded in 2018 compared with five in 2015. In a bid to tackle the rise, local volunteers have launched a leaflet campaign to encourage people to take home flying rings that could harm seals. The plastic objects restrict their growth and cuts into their flesh. One particular seal was rescued in 2017 and released the following year.

A second seal was rescued last December and released in May this year. A third seal was named Sir David Attenborough, whose Blue Planet II series raised awareness of the environmental damage caused by plastic pollution. The disc was cut off Sir David’s neck by a vet using surgical scissors before being released back into the wild in July after three months of supervised care.