How plastic is poisoning diets of 74% of seabirds
MORE than seven out of ten seabirds have swallowed potentially deadly fragments of plastic, Scots scientists have warned.
Research on 34 species in the North-Eastern Atlantic found 74 per cent had ingested plastic due to pollution.
The authors have collated data on plastic ingestion and so-called ‘nest incorporation’ in seabirds around northern Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Greenland, Svalbard, the Faroes and Iceland.
Dr Nina O’Hanlon, of the University of the Highlands and Islands, warned that plastic posed ‘a major threat’ to marine life. She said: ‘The production of plastic continues to rise, with millions of tons entering the oceans each year. Seabirds can ingest plastic, become entangled in it, or incorporate it into their nests, causing impacts which may have negative consequences on reproduction and survival.’
RSPB senior conservation scientist Dr Alex Bond said: ‘The properties which make plastic desirable are the very things which make it problematic.
‘Plastic never breaks down, it only breaks up into smaller fragments which remain in the environment and, as its density varies, it can be found throughout all depths of the water, increasing the number of species which come into contact with it. Solutions to plastic pollution in the oceans require concerted action at its source on land – 80 per cent of marine litter is thought to come from land – especially by producers and users.’
The researchers say more co-ordinated, comprehensive and detailed investigations are now required.
Less than half of the 69 seabird species commonly found in the North-Eastern Atlantic have been investigated for plastic so far.
Dr O’Hanlon added: ‘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, are globally threatened.’
The group’s research was undertaken as part of Circular Ocean, a project funded by the EU’s Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, to incentivise the reuse and recycling of plastic litter.
Earlier this month, the Scottish Government backed a radical deposit return scheme for drinks containers which would see a refundable 10p charge added to cans and bottles.
The move, following a Scottish Daily Mail campaign, could help battle plastic bottle pollution.
It also emerged that ministers will consider a mandatory coffee cup charge, similar to the 5p carrier bag fee, to cut waste and litter.
Documents published with Nicola Sturgeon’s programme for government state: ‘We will also go further in our efforts to end the “throwaway” culture by examining how to reduce demand for single-use items, such as disposable coffee cups.’
The move comes after the Daily Mail’s Curb the Cups campaign.