Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

All tied up: over half of the 31 ACAP-listed seabird species have been entangled by plastics

Peter Ryan (FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa) has published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on avian entanglements from discarded materials.  Thirty-six per cent of seabird species have been recorded entangled by plastic litter, mainly derived from fishing.  55% (17 of 31) of the ACAP-listed species have been reported entangled, including 12 albatross species and both giant petrels Macronectes.  Two of the five Procellaria petrels have been so reported.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Entanglement of animals is one of the main environmental impacts of waste plastic. A 2015 review of entanglement records found that the proportion of affected seabirds increased from 16% of species to 25% over the last two decades. However, this was restricted to published records; Google Images and other web-based sources indicate that at least 147 seabird species (36%), as well as 69 freshwater birds (10%) and 49 landbirds (0.5%) from 53 families have been entangled in plastic or other synthetic materials. Fishing gear is responsible for entangling most species (83%), although it is often difficult to differentiate entanglement from bycatch on active gear. Mitigation measures include banning high-risk applications where there are alternatives (e.g. six-pack rings), discouraging the use of high-risk items (e.g. balloons on strings, ‘manja’ kites), and encouraging fishers to not discard waste fishing gear by providing specific receptacles and associated educational signage in fishing areas.”


A beached Black-footed Albatross Phoebastria nigripes carcass found entangled by a balloon string (click here)


Ryan, P.G. 2018.  Entanglement of birds in plastics and other synthetic materials.   Marine Pollution Bulletin (Species information is in a supplementary table).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 July 2018