Plastic’s Impact on Birds

The Telegraph reports that the kittiwake has become the first British bird to be added to the IUCN’s Red List of British birds facing extinction where plastic has been a factor in its decline. There used to be millions of kittiwakes nesting around UK’s shores but now there are only around 300,000 breeding pairs left. Plastic, pollution, climate change and overfishing are blamed for the declines, since the birds drown in fishing nets while oil pollution and plastic litter can kill chicks in the nest.

Meanwhile, CNN reports that the Laysan albatross of the Midway Atoll refuge in the middle of the Pacific Ocean depends on the oceans around it for food. Yet those oceans are packed with trash. Midway is on the edge of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch where garbage from North America and Asia collects. Unfortunately the plastic tends to look like food, so the birds eat it.

A 2012 study by UBC researchers found plastic was pervasive in the stomachs of beached Northern Fulmars along the B.C., Washington state and Oregon coasts. The study found that more than 90 percent of 67 fulmars had ingested plastics such as twine, Styrofoam and candy wrappers. An average of 36.8 pieces of plastic were found per bird.

Marine pollution is a well-known problem, but the 2015 study by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis was the first time researchers estimated the amount of plastic waste that flowed into the ocean in a given year, wrote the Globe and Mail. They found that Canada, with the longest coastline in the world, produced almost 8,000 tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste in 2010, compared with more than 275,000 tonnes in the United States and 8.8 million in China.

The Vancouver Aquarium launched a major scientific research initiative in 2014 to study ocean pollution. The Ocean Pollution Research Program was established in 2014 as a major new Vancouver Aquarium research initiative. Its focus is to determine the sources and consequences of ocean pollution, including microplastics and pollution tracking. They will communicate results to stakeholders and the public, and provide guidance on solutions in the form of best practices, consumer choices and policies.

Ocean Wise has a series of short videos on their website that explain more about plastics in the ocean and animals with microplastics. They also offer an introduction to Microplastics in 60 Seconds including what they are and where they come from. So visit their site and get clued up in less than a minute.

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Alison Wheatley

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