Rising plastic menace choking sealifePosted on July 12, 2012 by DrRossH in Plastic & Wildlife
Is the value we get from a plastic straw or a plastic bag or similar worth this price?
“It’s very sad and disturbing to see so much plastic being ingested by these birds,” says Avery-Gomm.
“The birds usually have dozens of pieces of plastic in their stomachs, things like candy wrappers, twine and Styrofoam, causing lacerations of the stomach lining, stunted growth and mortality.”
The researchers performed necropsies on 67 birds, finding each contained an average of 0.385 grams of plastic, equivalent to about five per cent of their body mass.
“I was shocked to find one bird with 454 pieces of plastic in her stomach,” says Avery-Gomm.
Scientists are also concerned about the toxins leaching out of the plastics, which are also being consumed by the birds and other marine life.
“I think it’s time for governments to look at legislation to ban single-use plastics like straws and wrappers,” Avery-Gomm says.
Australian birds affected
Dr Jennifer Lavers from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic studies at the University of Tasmania says the new Canadian findings reflect her own research on Australian seabirds.
Fifteen years ago, 65 per cent of Australian marine birds were affected by plastics, and Lavers believes it could be closer to 85 per cent now.
Her research on short-tailed and flesh-footed shearwaters has found that one hundred per cent of the birds now suffer from ingested plastics.
“Unfortunately it’s bad for both species,” says Lavers. “All the birds suffer things like perforations and blockages of the digestive system, or ingested toxins leaching from the plastics.”
“Last week, I removed 442 pieces of plastic from an albatross chick only a few months old.”
Lavers says the problem of plastic pollution is also impacting on many other marine animals. All seven species of Australian sea turtles are known to ingest and become entangled in plastics.
“Last year, a sperm whale washed up with 123 different kinds of fishing net in its stomach,” Lavers says. “It’s all very terrifying and exceptionally bad news all around.”
“Governments should have legislated to ban plastic bags or impose fees decades ago. Now there’s millions of tonnes of plastics polluting the marine environment.”
“Urgent legislation and international co-operation is what’s needed now,” says Lavers.