Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Flame retardants anyone? Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses ingest plastics containing hazardous chemicals

Kosuke Tanaka (Laboratory of Toxicology, Hokkaido University, Kita-ku, Sapporo  Japan) and colleagues have published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on chemical compounds in plastic fragments ingested by Black-footed Phoebastria nigripes and Laysan P. immutabilis Albatrosses on Japan’s Mukojima Island.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The risk of marine organisms ingesting plastics has become a growing concern due to hazard chemicals in plastics. To identify compounds to which seabirds potentially have substantial exposure, 194 plastics fragments and pellets ingested by seabirds, i.e., northern fulmars from the Faroe Islands, and laysan albatross and black-footed albatross from Mukojima Island, were analyzed piece by piece. Four kinds of UV stabilizers, 2 brominated flame retardants, and styrene oligomers were detected at detection frequencies of 4.6%, 2.1%, and 2.1%, respectively. Concentrations ranging from not detected (n.d.) – 1700 μg/g were measured for UV stabilizers, n.d. – 1100 μg/g for flame retardants, and n.d. – 3200 μg/g for styrene oligomers. We found that these chemicals could be retained in plastics during drifting and fragmentation in the ocean and transported to seabirds. This type of transport via plastics can be direct pathway that introduces hazardous compounds to marine organisms.”


Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses,  photograph from the Kure Atoll Conservancy

Click here for a related paper by Kosuke Tanaka.

With thanks to Tomohiro Deguchi,


Tanaka, K., van Franeker, J.A., Deguchi, T. & Takada, H. 2019.  Piece-by-piece analysis of additives and manufacturing byproducts in plastics ingested by seabirds: implication for risk of exposure to seabirds.  Marine Pollution Bulletin 145: 36-41.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 15 August 2019