Fishing litter

Most anglers are very responsible when disposing of their litter, but it only takes one piece of snagged line to be left in a tree or dropped near the water to endanger the life of an animal. 

Every year, we receive thousands of calls about animals affected by fishing litter - and they’re just the ones that we know of. For every animal, we’re able to help there are many that go unseen, unreported and may even lose their lives. 

close-up of fishing hook in birds beak

Harmful effects of fishing litter

Most of the calls we receive about animals affected by fishing litter involve swans, as well as ducks, geese, gulls and other waterbirds.

  • Hooks can become embedded in the skin, and the wounds they cause can become seriously infected
  • Hooks, line and weights can be swallowed, causing internal blockages and injury
  • Line can wrap around an animal’s limbs, cutting off the blood supply
  • Wildlife entangled in line may suffer a slow death due to starvation.  

Find out what to do if you see an injured wild animal.

What can you do to help?

  • Take old fishing lines and spools to recycling points in local tackle shops or fisheries. Your nearest recycling point can be found via the Anglers National Line Recycling Scheme (ANLRS). Alternatively, an old fishing line can be posted to the address on the ANLRS page.
  • Be aware of surrounding trees - lines caught in foliage can entangle wildlife. If the fishing line does get snagged in a tree, then retrieve it if it’s safe to do so, or notify the landowner if you can’t retrieve it yourself.
  • Don't leave baited tackle unattended - remove bait from the hook and put the tackle in a safe place.
  • Use a bait box, and take any empty bait tins away with you.
  • If you’re fishing for crabs, use baited pouches instead of crab lines with hooks that other animals might get tangled in. If you do find crab lines that have been left behind, cut them into small pieces and put them in a bin.
  • Help keep your local river, canal or coastline litter-free by picking up any litter you see and disposing of it safely - even if it’s not your own! 
  • Join the Angling Trust’s Take 5 campaign - after you’ve finished fishing, take five items of litter home with you, or spend five minutes picking up any litter you can see. 
  • If you do see an animal tangled in fishing line, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator for advice or contact us
  • Get together with others in the community to organise a litter pick in your area - it’s a great way to meet people and get some exercise, as well as take care of the environment!

What are we doing to tackle the issue?

Every year, we deal with thousands of calls about animals affected by fishing litter in England and Wales. These could all have been prevented, so we’ve joined forces with the Angling Trust and Keep Britain Tidy to tackle the problem. 

Find out more