Plastic Trash Packs Stomachs of Northern Sea Birds

Slit open their bellies, and tightly packed garbage spills out. Sea birds off the northwest coast of North America are victims of our love affair with convenient, ubiquitous plastic.

To find out how much plastic pollution has increased over the past four decades, researchers from British Columbia and Washington State studied the stomach contents of beached northern fulmar.

Bright bits of plastic catch the seabirdsí attention. Mistaking candy wrappers, Styrofoam and twine for food, they gobble so much plastic that 92.5 per cent of the birds studied had plastic pieces in their stomach. The average for the 67 birds was 36.8 pieces, with a total average weight of 0.385 grams per bird. One bird had 454 pieces of plastic in its stomach.

Northern fulmars are common sea birds in northern ocean. They are often mistaken for gulls, though they are more closely related to albatrosses and shearwaters. The birds are known to follow fishing boats, feeding on offal.

Next: “Like the canary in the coal mine”

According to Camille Bains of Canadian Press, the northern fulmars donít regurgitate the plastic bits they pick up. On the one hand, that means they donít pass them on to chicks. Unfortunately, the plastic can stay in their systems and causes blockages or illnesses.

North Sea scientists have been using beached northern fulmars to study plastic pollution for the last thirty years. The new study shows that plastic pollution in the Northwest is similar to that in the North Sea.

Stephanie Avery-Gromm, lead author and graduate student in the University of British Columbiaís Department of Zoology, said:

Like the canary in the coal mine, northern fulmars are sentinels of plastic pollution in our oceans. Their stomach content provides a Ďsnapshotí sample of plastic pollution from a large area of the northern Pacific Ocean.

Karen Barry of Bird Studies Canada, who co-authored the study added:

Beached bird surveys are providing important clues about causes and patterns of sea bird mortality from oil spill impacts, fisheries by-catch and now plastic ingestion.

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Photo 1: Non-food stomach content found in a northern fulmar in the UBC study. (Photo: StephanieAvery-Gomm, UBC); Photo 2: Northern fulmar photo via JAC6.FLICKR via Flickr Creative Commons


Anna M.
Anna M5 years ago

It seems Corporate planetcide will be allowed as long as enough money is moving among the OnePercenters
Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
All things connect.
Chief Seattle, 1854
When all the trees have been cut down,
When all the animals have been hunted,
When all the waters are polluted,
When all the air is unsafe to breathe,
Only then will you discover
You cannot eat money.
Cree Prophecy
Treat the earth well.
It was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors
We borrow it from our Children.
Ancient Indian Proverb
The price of anything is the amount of life exchanged for it

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B5 years ago


Cheryl B.
Cheryl B5 years ago


Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright5 years ago

I too am too stunned and angry for words. Humans continue to disgust me to no end. It's another IFHP day in the neighborhood.


Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla5 years ago

Humans.... Hate plastics! boycott plastic! I try every day

Waheeda Smith
Waheeda E5 years ago

I have no words I'm so sad about this. :(

Shin Takahashi
Shin Takahashi5 years ago

Same old stories which happen repeatedly because of human. We must try to stop it immediately. Thank you for the post.

joseph rogers
Joseph rogers5 years ago

this is old news but good to keep it alive, has the government raised the fine limits yet, I bet they have not, its cheaper to pay the fine and pollute the oceans than take responsibility for your actions

Alex H.
Alex H5 years ago

Aaahhh!Plastic!So convenient and yet so deadly to everything in the environment,including us! Here are a few things you can do to boycott plastic.Don't buy plastic wrap,there are plenty of other ways to protect food,like china,glass or enamel containers!Take your own non-plastic plates,cutlery and cups when you go to an outdoor event!Use cloth bags!Never go to a Tupperware party and if you hold them,change your party to something environmentally friendly! There is so much plastic rubbish that will never break down;we should be ashamed at what we are leaving for future generations to clean up.What a disgrace yet there are still companies making billions of dollars out of this stuff.Consciences have been compromised to profits on so many issues that it's frightening.

Kelly M.
Kelly R5 years ago