Laysans swallow more plastic than Black-foots but both North Pacific albatrosses are at risk from contamination

Holly Gray (Algalita Marine Research Foundation, Long Beach, California, USA) and colleagues, writing in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, have looked at plastic loads in adult North Pacific albatrosses caught as fishery by-catch.  Of plastic varieties, fragments contributed the greatest mean mass in both species.

The paper's abstract follows:

"Laysan Albatrosses (Phoebastria immutabilis) and Black-footed Albatrosses (P. nigripes) ingest plastic debris, as evidenced by studies showing plastic in the digestive contents of their chicks, but there is little documentation of the frequency and amount of ingested plastics carried in foraging adults.  In this study, we quantify plastics among the digestive contents of 18 Laysan Albatrosses and 29 Black-footed Albatrosses collected as by-catch in the North Pacific Ocean.  We found ingested plastic in 30 of the 47 birds examined, with Laysan Albatrosses exhibiting a greater frequency of plastic ingestion (83.3% n = 18) than Black-footed Albatrosses (51.7% n = 29) (X2 = 4.8, df = 1, P = 0.03).  Though the mass of ingested plastic in both species (mean ± SD = 0.463 g ± 1.447) was lower than previously noted among albatross chicks, the high frequency of ingested plastic we found in this study suggests that long-term effects, e.g. absorption of contaminants from plastics, may be of concern throughout the population."

Remains of a Laysan Albatross corpse on Midway Atoll shows its plastic load
Photograph by Chris Jordan


Gray, H., Lattin, G.L. & Moore, C.J. 2012.  Incidence, mass and variety of plastics ingested by Laysan (Phoebastria immutabilis) and Black-footed Albatrosses (P. nigripes) recovered as by-catch in the North Pacific Ocean.  Marine Pollution

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 September 2012

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