Our plastic waste ending up in the ocean puts seabirds at high risk. And not only seabirds, but entire ecosystems.
A new study draws a serious alarm signal to this destructive trend that, if left unregulated, will result in plastic waste ending up in the insides of over 90 percent of the world’s seabirds by 2050.
The study was conducted by a consortium of scientists comprised of Dr. Erik van Sebille of the Imperial College London and Dr. Denise Hardesty and Dr. Chris Wilcox of CSIRON – Australia. Their gloomy findings, based on historical data mining and computer models are published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal PNAS.
It is hard to ignore the hard truths presented in this paper. The authors have made it clear. Seabirds, as well as marine wildlife are the first victims of the ocean being contaminated with plastic waste.
Not sufficient time has passed since images of decomposing seabird bodies containing plastic caps, nets, bits of plastic bags and other plastic trinkets have become viral, presenting a gruesome reality. The snapshots depicting seaturtles wrapped and constrained in their growth by plastic nets or packages were not a fickle of imagination.
What this new paper presents is harsher data than before, and it adds to the growing body of scientific literature trying to paint a bigger picture in the most clear brush strokes possible. Plastic contamination is not restricted to some garbage patches in the ocean greyes. It is invasive, pervasive and it spreads.
Nor is it a problem of one nation, or one region. A study conducted previously by the same working group of the Ocean Conservancy at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California in Santa Barbara proved that 17 billion pounds of plastic find their resting place in the ocean every year.
Imagine that amount of garbage. And then imagine it being eaten by seabirds and marine creatures as well. And the effects it has on their bodies. Albatrosses and other seabirds, having filled their insides with the slowly decomposing plastic are starving to death, finding themselves in the impossibility to ingest or digest anything else.
If decisive action is not taken both at national, as well as at regional and international level, the authors of this paper suggest 99 percent of the seabird species across the world could face a problem that is certainly hard to swallow by 2050, with 95 percent of the individuals having a stomach full of…plastic debris.
Plastic contamination is a real threat. Not only is it not restricted to just some garbage patches in the world’s oceans, but as it spreads, being drawn by currents and winds, it infects the food web, starting from the smallest fish, to seabirds to our plates.
Photo Credits: amin.org