Friends of Horsey Seals
Sea-Changers Grant given:
In 2019, we funded Friends of Horsey Seals, a small charity based in Horsey on the Norfolk coast. Their mission is to protect the Grey Seals that live and breed locally. Grey seals are common in the area but are rare globally and Britain is home to around 50% of the world population.
The aim of the project we funded was to make the public aware of a problem caused by plastic flying rings – the sort kids and dogs play with on the beach. When these float off into the sea … well, seals are naturally inquisitive animals and when they encounter new objects they like to play with them too. Unfortunately, a young seal can get entangled in a flying ring causing serious, potentially fatal, injuries as the seal grows.
"This campaign is a huge deal and deserves as much support as possible...the seals mean a lot to the people of Blakeney."
Sea-Changers’ £550 grant was used to design and print posters and leaflets displaying the campaign message and volunteers distributed them all along the Norfolk coastline from Great Yarmouth to Kings Lynn. An important part of the distribution was the face-to-face contact with people to explain the campaign and gauge whether it had increased people’s level of awareness of the issue.
The seal images used and the wording for the materials were carefully selected to provide positive framing for the campaign. Encouragement to engage with the seals and respond to the campaign messages was provided by featuring the stories of named seals who have all been caught in flying rings, rescued, successfully treated and released back into the wild. Clear suggestions of how people can help were highlighted.
Ambassadors for the campaign were recruited from schools and the local business community to promote the campaign over the summer and some incorporated the campaign message into their regular activities, talks and displays.
It can be hard to evaluate the real success of a campaign like this in the short term. What is clear is that the campaign most definitely raised awareness of the issues (a questionnaire was used to assess this) among locals and visitors alike.
Beach cleans over a period of time will be able to demonstrate whether fewer rings are being discarded but it may take several years counting and categorising injured seals to know whether the project has achieved its ultimate aim of fewer entrapped seals.