Angling To Damage

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of this article, the first point I should make is that in no way am I accusing any individual or group of causing intentional damage. However, we are talking about accidental (I hope) damage. Accidental damage to our environment and wildlife through a very popular sport and activity that takes place on almost every waterway in the UK. Can you guess what it is? That’s right! Fishing or, angling.

Litter in any form is both unsightly and damaging to our environment. In this case however, I am focusing on fishing litter as a good percentage of litter that causes serious harm to our wildlife comes in the form of discarded fishing tackle. Unfortunately for our wildlife, it is this tackle that causes serious injury to thousands of wild animals in the UK every year. Between 2005 and 2013, 1000 wild birds were admitted to RSPCA Wildlife Rescue Centres due to injuries caused by discarded angling gear. For example, fishing-tackle related injuries were the biggest cause of Swan rescues, with an estimated 3000 incidents occurring every year concerning this species. All kinds of litter from fishing can cause all kinds of problems for our wildlife. Tackle and line can wrap around animals, causing severe injuries to skin and muscle and can also cut off blood supply to areas of the body, whilst hooks, lines and weights can be ingested and cause serious internal blockages that can ultimately lead to death.

This particular problem was highlighted for me recently on my local river in Glasgow, when discarded fishing tackle was the reason for a heartbreaking tale to unfolded on the banks of the river Clyde. Since the improvement of the water quality of the Clyde, many bio-indicator species such as Grey Herons and Kingfishers have begun to flourish once again on these waters. Recently, it was one of these species, a Grey Heron, that found itself entangled in fishing line, with a hook stuck in its beak. As the Heron was unable to struggle free its partner tried to release its trapped mate from the tackle, but sadly became entwined itself and both of these beautiful birds sadly died. On the Clyde, the Glasgow Humane Society does clear fishing litter from the banks, but they cannot do this twenty fours hours a day, seven days a week and on this occasion, remaining fishing line caused an awful situation to unfold.


Most angling communities are very vigilant when it comes to old fishing gear and most are very protective of the environment where they practice their sport. However, as is the case with everything, there are always those who are a little less meticulous in their approach and sometimes mistakes and oversights occur. So, what’s the general advice surrounding this issue? Always take unwanted fishing line home and cut it into small pieces before disposing of it. Be aware of surrounding trees and foliage and avoid fishing where there may be snag lines. Do not leave baited tackle unattended as it may be ingested by wildlife and use bait boxes so that there is no chance of leaving an empty bait tin behind.

EVERYONE should dispose properly of their litter. Plastic bags, plastic and glass bottles, plastic pots, drink cans and beer can rings can all kill wildlife! All of us have a duty to our environment to dispose of our litter (and other litter we see lying about) properly if we want to protect the species within it. Disposing of litter may seem like a small, insignificant thing, but then does it really take that much effort to achieve? Often it is the small things that can be the most damaging and the most explosive, leading to events that you may not have foreseen. For our wildlife, it is constantly the little mistakes of the human race that can cause monumental and severe problems.

The events concerning our Herons on the River Clyde should not have occurred and I for one never want them to happen again. We can stop it. Take a small step. Clean up your litter and clean up the environment!

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” ― Arthur Conan Doyle.

“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.” ― Andy Warhol

Follow me on twitter for more nature news and wildlife photography @DaisyEleanorug

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Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard
I have been a bird enthusiast since I was a child and have just completed my MSc at Newcastle University on 'Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Management.'
Eleanor Daisy Upstill-Goddard

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