There is so much plastic trash flowing into the oceans that 90 percent of seabirds are now consuming it on a frequent basis and virtually every one will be consuming it by 2050, a new study finds. Although the facts that the study presents are shocking, is also tracks how widespread plastic have become inside seabirds for the first time.
“That was shocking,” states Chris Wilcox, a research scientist with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and lead author of the study. “Essentially, the number of species and number of individuals within species that you find plastic in is going up fairly rapidly by a couple percent every year.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, goes on to reference findings that appeared in other seabird studies throughout the years. Most notable was that in the 1960s, sea plastic was found in the stomachs of fewer than five percent of birds. However, that number jumped to 80 percent in the 1980s. This disturbing jump coincided with the increased rate of plastic manufacturing over those years.
Wilcox goes on to comment, “Global plastic production doubles every 11 years. So in the next 11 years, we’ll make as much plastic as we’ve made since plastic was invented. Seabirds’ ingestion of plastic is tracking with that."
The highest concentration of plastic in seabirds was found in southern Australia, South Africa and South America where coastlines are the closest to loosely concentrated collections of ocean debris that travel with the currents. While large birds, like the albatross, eat the largest amounts of plastics, Wilcox states that it doesn't mean large birds eat proportionately more plastic. Parakeet auklets, a small bird that lives on the coasts of Alaska, shows the highest predisposition to eating ocean plastic due to its hunting instincts and attraction to brighter colors.