Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

No seas safe: three Mediterranean shearwater species are loaded with plastic

Marina Codina-García (Departament de Biologia Animal, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain) and colleagues write in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on plastic loads in three species of Mediterranean shearwaters recovered from longlines.  One of the species studied, the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus, is listed within ACAP, the other two are potential candidate species for listing.

The paper’s abstract follows

“Plastic debris is often ingested by marine predators and can cause health disorders and even death.  We present the first assessment of plastic ingestion in Mediterranean seabirds.  We quantified and measured plastics accumulated in the stomach of 171 birds from 9 species accidentally caught by longliners in the western Mediterranean from 2003 to 2010.  Cory’s [=Scopoli's] shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea) showed the highest occurrence (94%) and large numbers of small plastic particles per affected bird (on average N= 15.3 ± 24.4 plastics and mass = 23.4 ± 49.6 mg), followed by Yelkouan shearwaters (Puffinus yelkouan, 70%, N= 7.0 ± 7.9, 42.1 ± 100.0 mg), Balearic shearwaters (Puffinus mauretanicus, 70%, N= 3.6 ± 2.9, 5.5 ± 9.7 mg) and the rest of species (below 33%, N= 2.7, 113.6 ± 128.4 mg).  Plastic characteristics did not differ between sexes and were not related to the physical condition of the birds.  Our results point out the three endemic and threatened shearwater species as being particularly exposed to plastic accumulation.”

Yelkouan Shearwater

Click here for a report on the study.


Codina-García, M., Militão, T., Moreno, J. & González-Solís, J. 2013.  Plastic debris in Mediterranean seabirds.  Marine Pollution Bulletin 77: 220-226.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 12 April 2013