Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Fly north for what? Great and Sooty Shearwaters ingest plastic in Canadian Atlantic waters

Alex Bond (RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, The Lodge, Sandy, UK) and colleagues write in the Marine Pollution Bulletin on plastic debris ingested by Sooty Puffinus griseus and Great P. gravis shearwaters (southern hemisphere breeders) and Northern Fulmars Fulmarus glacialis found dead in Nova Scotia, Canada

The paper’s abstract follows:

"Plastic pollution is widespread in the marine environment, and plastic ingestion by seabirds is now widely reported for dozens of species.  Beached Northern Fulmars, Great Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters and Cory’s Shearwaters are found on Sable Island, Nova Scotia, Canada regularly, and they can be used to assess plastic pollution.  All species except Cory’s Shearwaters contained plastic debris in their gastrointestinal tracts.  Northern Fulmars, Sooty Shearwaters and Great Shearwaters all showed high prevalence of plastic ingestion (>72%), with Northern Fulmars having the highest number and mass of plastics among the species examined.  There was no difference in plastic ingestion between sexes or age classes.  In all species user plastics made up the majority of the pieces found, with industrial pellets representing only a small proportion in the samples.  Sable Island could be an important monitoring site for plastic pollution in Atlantic Canada.”


A beached Great Shearwater, photograph courtesy of the authors 

Click here for a related paper.


Bond, A.L., Provencher, J.F., Daoust, P.-Y. & Lucas, Z.N. 2014.  Plastic ingestion by fulmars and shearwaters at Sable Island, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Marine Pollution Bulletin  DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.08.010.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 August 2014