Micro Plastics and Sea Birds
How Human Garbage is Killing Seabirds
The Midway Atoll is one of the largest protected areas for wildlife on the planet. This remote area is home to only 40 people and so should represent a haven for the seabirds which call it home. At first sight that is exactly what it is. But many birds are suffering and dying as a result of human activity.
How could that be?
Remote Pacific Island
Midway is a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. It is home to the Laysan albatross which depends on the ocean for its food. Unfortunately, the ocean is full of trash which has been discarded by humans. There are thousands of birds on Midway and researchers say that all of them have ingested plastic.
Midway looks for all the world like a pristine wilderness but on closer inspection it transpires that its shores are littered with rubbish which has travelled to the island on the ocean’s currents. You can see plastic bottle tops, plastic packaging, bottles and a variety of other rubbish all along the shore. 125 metric tonnes of trash have been removed from the island since 1999. But those who seek to clear it simply cannot keep up with the volume of garbage in the ocean.
Truck Loads of Rubbish
The world’s oceans are literally awash with plastic trash. Human beings throw the equivalent of an entire truck of garbage into the oceans every minute. Scientists believe that by 2050, there could be more rubbish in the world’s oceans than fish.
Plastic and Seabirds
Sadly the shape and colour of the plastic pieces make them attractive to the Laysan albatross which depends on the ocean for its food. The plastic debris looks just like food and so the birds will swoop down to pick it up and then will swallow it. The plastic has no nutritional value and does not break down in the bird’s stomachs. When dead birds are found and cut open, their stomachs are often full of plastic trash. It is an incredibly disturbing sight.
Chicks and Plastic
As the volume of plastic in the ocean increases, the Laysan albatross and other wildlife will eat more and more of it. The Laysan albatross is a vulnerable species and would be endangered even without the plastic. The rubbish in the oceans is making extinction all the more likely. Adult birds are regurgitating the contents of their stomach to feed their chicks and so even the youngest birds are eating plastic. The chicks die and decompose but the plastic does not degrade and so is left to litter the landscape.
These beautiful birds are struggling, even in the remote wilderness of Midway. As these stunning birds soar above the ocean, they are flying over an enormous refuge tip where there shouldn’t be one. The trash is slowly eradicating this amazing species and many others. We simply have to find a way to prevent so much rubbish from entering the world’s oceans.