The New York Times reports: Seabirds like albatross, petrels and penguins face a growing threat from plastic waste in parts of the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans, according to a new study published on Monday.
Brightly colored floating bits – debris that includes items such as discarded flip-flops, water bottles and popped balloons – often attract seabirds, which confuse them for food like krill or shrimp. Many die from swallowing the plastic.
The problem received some national attention in 2013 with the documentary “Midway,” which showed a remote island in the Pacific covered in corpses of baby albatross. Their exposed innards revealed lighters, bottle caps and toothbrushes mistakenly fed to them by their parents.
The number of incidents like these is rapidly increasing, according to the new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers from Australia and Britain analyzed a number of papers from 1962 to 2012 that had surveyed 135 seabirds. The team found that fewer than 10 percent of seabirds had traces of plastic in their stomachs during the 1970s and 1980s. They estimated that today that number has increased to about 90 percent of seabirds. And they predict that 99 percent of all seabirds will swallow plastic in 2050. [Continue reading…]