New report examines marine plastics in seabirds

Study finds that almost three-quarters of examined species had ingested plastic.

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Gannet chick in nest which incorporates plastic

Gannet chick in nest which incorporates plastic © RSPB Cymru

 

Researchers collated data from a range of studies carried out in the north-eastern Atlantic region on seabirds.

Of the 34 species studied, 74 per cent were recorded to ingest plastic, and the highest prevalence of ingestion occurred in the group of birds that includes albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, storm petrels and diving petrels.

“Marine plastic pollution is an increasing and global environmental issue which poses a major threat to marine biodiversity,” says Dr Nina O’Hanlon, lead author and seabird ecologist from the Environmental Research Institute.

“The production of plastic continues to rise, with millions of tons entering the oceans each year.”

The paper includes all known studies which contain reports of plastic ingestion by seabirds and where they have incorporated plastic into their nests in Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Svalbard, Russia, Scandinavia and northern Europe. 

The researchers also highlighted that the full impact of marine plastic on seabird populations are unknown.

“We actually know very little about the current prevalence of plastic ingestion and nest incorporation for many species, several, like the long-tailed duck and Atlantic puffin, of which are globally threatened,” says O’Hanlon.

“Only 49 per cent of the 69 species which are commonly found in the region have been investigated for plastic ingestion.”

 

Read the paper in Environmental Pollution

 

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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