It’s terrifying that 90% of the world’s sea birds have plastic in their stomachs. And scientists from the CSIRO and Imperial College London predict that 99% of all the sea birds species will have ingested plastic by 2050 if we don’t change our habits of polluting the oceans. Findings of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In the 1960s, less than 10% sea birds had consumed plastic
Researchers found that the percentage of sea birds consuming plastic was increasing at an alarming rate. There are at least 360,000 pieces of plastic for every square mile of the world’s oceans. Scientists analyzed data related to plastic ingestion by birds between 1962 and 2012. They found that less than 10% of sea birds had plastic in their guts in the 1960s, just when industrial plastic manufacturing started booming. Today more than 90% of seabird species have plastic in their bodies.
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Chris Wilcox, the lead author of the study, said there was no reason to believe that the trend would change anytime soon. Wilcox and his colleagues surveyed data on 186 species of sea birds, including information on their foraging strategies, plastic pollution in their habitats, body size and more. Then they compiled about 100 studies detailing the rate of plastic ingestion by certain bird species since 1962.
South Tasmania sea most dangerous area for sea birds
Scientists said the southern edges of South America, South Africa, and Australia were high-risk areas for the bird population. But the most dangerous area for sea birds is the south Tasmania sea, which is the intersection of a lot of sea birds and a high density of plastic. Wilcox says we can’t ignore the fact that we are throwing a lot of plastic in the ocean every year, and the number is only increasing.
A recent study suggested that a whopping 8.4 million tons of plastic was dumped in the ocean last year. Larger sea birds like albatrosses and penguins were more likely to have plastic in their guts. The birds mistake plastic for food when skimming surface waters. Researchers found all sorts of plastic items inside sea birds, including toothbrushes, balloons, toys, cigarette lighters, and glowsticks. Ingesting plastic can cause severe illness or death.