Quantcast

Ocean Plastic Will Be Found in 99 Percent of Seabirds by 2050

Plastic pollution in the ocean is like a floating minefield to marine life, from microscopic plankton to giant whales. Now, a new study estimates that plastic debris can be found in the majority of all species of seabirds.

It's no surprise that as more plastic enters the oceans, more seabirds will accidentally eat it. What's surprising is how much these numbers have escalated over time.

Researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia and Imperial College London found that in the 1960s, only 5 percent of seabirds had plastic in their stomachs. By 2010, that number rose to a startling 80 percent. Of all seabirds alive today, the researchers estimated that 90 percent of the birds have eaten plastic.

Worryingly, if current trends continue (that is, if humans don't stop dumping plastic into the ocean), it's predicted that 99 percent of seabirds will swallow plastic by 2050, the researchers said. These findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to NBC News, the study's authors used oceanographic and ecological modeling to predict the risk of plastic ingestion to 186 seabird species globally, including albatross, shearwaters and penguins.

“For the first time, we have a global prediction of how wide-reaching plastic impacts may be on marine species—and the results are striking," said Dr. Chris Wilcox, a senior research scientist at CSIRO in a statement. “We predict, using historical observations, that 90 percent of individual seabirds have eaten plastic. This is a huge amount and really points to the ubiquity of plastic pollution."

The authors found that the highest risk area is in the Southern Ocean boundary in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, even though the area was previously identified as having low concentrations of marine debris.

Dr. Erik van Sebille, from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, said in a statement that the plastic waste is most devastating in areas with a greater diversity of species.

“We are most concerned about species such as petrels, shearwaters and giant albatrosses, which live in areas near the mainland shore, islands or the Southern Ocean, where they are part of a large complex ecosystem of animals feeding on each other," he said. “While the infamous garbage patches in the middle of the oceans have strikingly high densities of plastic, very few animals live here."

A study found that 8 million metric tons of plastic waste is dumped into the world's oceans every year, and it's clear that we all must act to reduce our plastic footprint. As co-author Dr. Denise Hardesty from the CSIRO said in a statement, “improving waste management can reduce the threat plastic is posing to marine wildlife."

"Even simple measures can make a difference," she continued. "Efforts to reduce plastics losses into the environment in Europe resulted in measurable changes in plastic in seabird stomachs with less than a decade, which suggests that improvements in basic waste management can reduce plastic in the environment in a really short time."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Boyan Slat's 'Mega Expedition' Shows 'Our Oceans Are Riddled With Plastic'

Pharrell Williams and G-Star RAW Transform Ocean Plastic Into Clothes

This Injured Turtle Will Make You Think Twice About Drinking Out of a Plastic Straw

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Popular
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, seen here speaking to the press about the Flint water crisis in 2016, will be the highest ranking official to stand trial over the public health disaster. Brett Carlsen / Getty Images

Judge Orders Michigan Health Director to Face Trial Over Flint Water Crisis Deaths

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon will be the highest ranking official to go to trial so far as a result of an investigation into the Flint water crisis, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Judge David Goggins ruled Monday there was probable cause for Lyon to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Robert Skidmore and John Snyder that prosecutors say were due to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that Lyon was aware of a year before he alerted Michigan's governor, Michigan Live reported. Lyons is also charged with misconduct in office.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Coal-fired power plant near Becker, Minnesota. Tony Webster / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump's 'Dirty Power Plan' Could Cost More Than 1,000 Lives a Year

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled on Tuesday its long-anticipated replacement of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. The new coal pollution rules will increase planet-warming carbon pollution and could cost more than a thousand American lives each year, according to the EPA's own estimates.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler released the "Affordable Clean Energy Rule" today under President Trump's directive. The new plan encourages efficiency improvements at existing coal plants to ensure they operate longer and allows states to weaken, or even eliminate, coal emissions standards. That's a clear difference from former President Obama's plan, which was aimed at phasing out coal and transitioning to cleaner power sources to avoid dangerous climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Two workers in protective gear scrape asbestos tile and mastic from a facility at Naval Base Point Loma in California. NAVFAC / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Why Asbestos Is Still a Major Public Health Threat in the U.S.

Reports surfaced this month that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had proposed a significant new use rule (SNUR) for asbestos in June, requiring anyone who wanted to start or resume importing or manufacturing the carcinogenic mineral to first receive EPA approval.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Rklfoto / Getty Images

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Wants to End EPA’s Cruel Animal Testing

By Justin Goodman and Nathan Herschler

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress recently pressed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its "questionable" and "dubious" animal tests. The lawmakers' demand for information on "horrific and inhumane" animal testing at the EPA comes on the heels of a recent Johns Hopkins University study that found that high-tech computer models are more effective than animal tests.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Wikimedia Commons

Strongest, Oldest Arctic Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record

The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe, and now the region's thickest and oldest sea ice—also known as "the last ice area"—is breaking up for the first time on record, the Guardian reported Tuesday.

The breakage has opened up waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen-solid even in the peak of summer.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Climate Justice Edmonton

These Giant Portraits Will Stand in the Path of Trans Mountain Pipeline

By Andrea Germanos

To put forth a "hopeful vision for the future" that includes bold climate action, a new installation project is to be erected along the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion route to harnesses art's ability to be a force for social change and highlight the fossil fuel project's increased threats to indigenous rights and a safe climate.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
A worker inspects recycled plastic in a plastics factory. Getty Images

The Plastic Waste Crisis Is an Opportunity to Get Serious About Recycling

By Kate O'Neill

A global plastic waste crisis is building, with major implications for health and the environment. Under its so-called "National Sword" policy, China has sharply reduced imports of foreign scrap materials. As a result, piles of plastic waste are building up in ports and recycling facilities across the U.S.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Aaron Teasdale

The One Thing Better Than Summer Skiing

By Aaron Teasdale

"There's snow up here, I promise," I assure my son Jonah, as we grunt up a south-facing mountainside in Glacier National Park in July. A mountain goat cocks its head as if to say, "What kind of crazy people hike up bare mountains in ski boots?" He's not the only one to wonder what in the name of Bode Miller we're doing up here with ski gear.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!