Seabirds on B.C., Washington, Oregon coast eating bellyfuls of plastic: study
Source: Camille Bains, The Globe and Mail
Seabirds eat everything from twine, candy wrappers and Styrofoam, and their stomach contents show there’s been a dramatic increase in plastic pollution off the Pacific Northwest coast in the last four decades, a new study suggests.
University of British Columbia researcher Stephanie Avery-Gomm said the amount of plastic a northern fulmar gobbles up provides a snapshot of the garbage that ends up in a big part of the Pacific Ocean.
The results of the study mirror that of various European countries’ research done last year of the notoriously polluted North Sea, although the situation seems to be improving there, Ms. Avery-Gomm said.
Necropsies of 67 of the beached gull-like seabirds collected between October 2009 and April 2010 from the coasts of B.C., Washington and Oregon indicated nearly 93 per cent of them had bellyfuls of plastic, she said.
One bird had 454 pieces of plastic in its gut, said Ms. Avery-Gomm, the study’s lead author and graduate of the university’s zoology department.
She said the results of the study, published online in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, suggest plastic pollution should be monitored annually and people need to be aware of the long-term effects of what they’re tossing out.
“Anything that gets into a river, anything that gets into the sewage system, anything that ends up on a beach is probably headed straight for the ocean.”
The graceful northern fulmars breed in Alaska, are cousins of the albatross and are oceanic creatures that don’t often venture onto shore.
They also don’t regurgitate the plastic they consume from the surface of the ocean. Ingesting it can directly kill the birds or cause gastrointestinal blockage, lacerations and reduced feeding.
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