The amount of plastic debris in the ocean has seriously impacted marine life. A new study shows that plastic is so common for seabirds that nearly 90 percent of them have ingested some sort of plastic.
This means that 9 out of 10 seabirds have plastic in their stomachs. This includes plastic fibers from synthetic clothes, bags and bottle caps.
A group of Australian scientists with Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) analyzed previous scientific literature on 135 seabird species and provided new estimates using oceanographic and ecological models, Washington Post reports. Their conclusions were published in the journal PNAS on Monday.
Lead researcher Chris Wilcox said that for the first time, his team has a “global prediction of how wide-reaching plastic impacts may be on marine species.” He added that the team predicted “90 percent of individual seabirds have eaten plastic.” This number is large and highlights the “ubiquity of plastic pollution.”
Co-author Denise Hardesty said seabirds are a great “indicator of ecosystem health.” According to International Bird Rescue, ingesting plastic leads to “death and even the death of their young.” Pieces of plastic attract toxic chemicals and they become “poison pills.”
In 1965, the estimate of plastic in seabirds was only 5 percent. Researchers predict that the number will reach 99 percent by 2050, according to CBS.
“Global plastic production is increasing exponentially, with a current doubling time of 11 [years]; thus, between 2015 and 2026, we will make as much plastic as has been made since production began,” the authors of the study wrote.
The huge patch of debris known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is floating in the North Pacific Ocean, has also made environmentalists concerned over marine wildlife. However, scientists involved in this study said that few animals live near the Patch.
Another co-author Erik stated that species of penguins and giant albatrosses that live in this area are of huge concern, CBS reports. But, there is still some hope for the seabirds.
Researchers said that there is still time to reduce the impact of plastic by bettering waste management. “Even simple measures can make a difference, such as reducing packaging, banning single-use plastic items or charging an extra fee to use them, and introducing deposits for recyclable items like drink containers,” the authors wrote.