Over 70% of Great Shearwaters in the North Atlantic carry ingested plastic in their stomachs

Jenrifer Provencher (Department of Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada) and colleagues write in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on plastics ingested by Great Shearwaters Puffinus gravis and other seabirds in the North Atlantic.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Marine birds have been found to ingest plastic debris in many of the world’s oceans.  Plastic accumulation data from necropsies findings and regurgitation studies are presented on 13 species of marine birds in the North Atlantic, from Georgia, USA to Nunavut, Canada and east to southwest Greenland and the Norwegian Sea.  Of the species examined, the two surface plungers (great shearwaters Puffinus gravis; northern fulmars Fulmarus glacialis) had the highest prevalence of ingested plastic (71% and 51%, respectively).  Great shearwaters also had the most pieces of plastics in their stomachs, with some individuals containing as many of 36 items.  Seven species contained no evidence of plastic debris.  Reporting of baseline data as done here is needed to ensure that data are available for marine birds over time and space scales in which we see changes in historical debris patterns in marine environments (i.e. decades) and among oceanographic regions.”

Great Shearwater at sea, photograph by John Graham

With thanks to Alex Bond and Jenrifer Provencher.


Provencher, J.F., Bond, A.L., Hedd, A., Montevecchi, W.A., Bin Muzaffar, S., Courchesne, S.J., Gilchrist, H.G., Jamieson, S.E., Merkel, F.R., Falk, K., Durinck, J. & Mallory, M.L. 2014.  Prevalence of marine debris in marine birds from the North Atlantic.  Marine Pollution Bulletin doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.04.044.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 24 May 2014

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