How plas­tic is poi­son­ing di­ets of 74% of seabirds

Scottish Daily Mail - - Life - By Tim Bu­gler

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.

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