Newell’s and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters are eating more plastic in Hawaii

Elizabeth Kain (Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, Hawaii, USA) and colleagues have published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution on increasing plastic pollutant levels in two Hawaiian shearwaters.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“The ingestion of plastic by seabirds has been used as an indicator of pollution in the marine environment.  On Kaua‘i, HI, USA, 50.0 % of Newell’s (Puffinus newelli) and 76.9 % of wedge-tailed shearwater (Ardenna pacifica) fledglings necropsied during 2007–2014 contained plastic items in their digestive tract, while 42.1 % of adult wedge-tailed shearwaters had ingested plastic.  For both species, the frequency of plastic ingestion has increased since the 1980s with some evidence that the mass and the number of items ingested per bird have also increased.  The color of plastic ingested by the shearwaters was assessed relative to beach-washed plastics by using Jaccard’s index (where J = 1 complete similarity).  The color (J = 0.65–0.68) of items ingested by both species, and the type ingested by wedge-tailed shearwaters (J = 0.85–0.87), overlapped with plastic available in the local environment indicating moderate selection for plastic color and type.  This study has shown that the Hawaiian populations of shearwaters, like many seabird species, provide useful but worrying insights into plastic pollution and the health of our oceans.”


Newell's Shearwater, photograph by Eric Vanderwerf


Kain, E.C., Lavers, J.L., Berg, C.J., Raine, A.F. & Bond, A.L. 2016.  Plastic ingestion by Newell’s (Puffinus newelli) and wedge-tailed shearwaters (Ardenna pacifica) in Hawaii.  Environmental Science and Pollution Research  doi: 10.1007/s11356-016-7613-1.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 September 2016

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