Southern California environment news and trends

Bad diet: Pacific birds eating increasing amount of plastic

It’s a sad fact that many bird species have a propensity for eating plastic. Given the amount of trash strewn throughout the world’s oceans, there’s no shortage of the stuff for animals to choke down. As reported by Treehugger, a new study by a team of American and Canadian scientists has found that seabirds of the North Pacific are consuming alarming amounts of plastic that rank among the highest rates in the world.

“The results are troubling,” said Stephanie Avery-Gomm, an author of the study who along with five other scientists analyzed 67 dead seabirds (known as Northern Fulmars) found on shores from Long Beach all the way up to British Columbia and Vancouver Island. “The large amount of plastic ingested by fulmars from the eastern North Pacific are approaching the high levels which have been documented previously in the historically polluted North Sea, where fulmars have been used as an indicator species of ocean health for decades… It is safe to say, based on earlier studies from the North Pacific, plastic ingestion in Northern Fulmars, and therefore plastic pollution, has increased in the North Pacific over the past forty years.”


California coast coughs up oil covered birds

Mercer 9133

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara coast.

According to a new AP report, more than 100 birds covered in oil from the ocean floor have been recovered along the California coastline over the past two months.

“We have never seen this many oil seep Murres at once,” said Jay Holcomb, the director emeritus of the International Bird Rescue center in Los Angeles. Murres are “pursuit diving” birds common to the central California coast. Due to a lack of budget for rounding up birds affected by natural seep, those numbers are gleaned solely from birds brought in by people along Santa Barbara beaches. “Some years we receive even more natural oil seep birds than we do birds from a human-caused oil spill with a responsible party to cover the cost of their care – and, unfortunately, these birds don’t come to us with health insurance.”

If you have an “oiled wildlife sighting,” the IBR asks that you please call (877) UCD-OWCN.


VIDEO: The Albatross and Great Pacific Garbage Patch


Recently, we reported that the Los Angeles City Council had unanimously decided to approve an ordinance that would tighten storm water regulations. It couldn’t have come too soon. Because with every wave of water that enters our storm drains, our trash goes along for the ride. Pictured above is a record of what happens to plastic waste once it sweeps into the Pacific.

In 2009, photographer Chris Jordan travelled to Midway Atoll, a small stretch of land near the middle of the North Pacific. Here, tens of thousands of albatross chicks die annually as their parents feed them a diet of plastic trash they bring back from the surrounding waters. As Jordan shares, “To document this phenomenon as faithfully as possible, not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way.” These birds died nearly 2,000 miles from the nearest continent.