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The amount of plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean has reached alarming levels, drastically impacting seabird populations, according to a new study.Scientists at the University of British Columbia looked at populations of Northern Fulmars, a bird species distributed widely in the north Atlantic and north Pacific. They found that more than 92 per cent of dead birds on beaches in British Columbia, Canada, and the US states of Washington and Oregon, had ingested significant quantities of plastic refuseThe Northern Fulmars are acting like canaries in coal mines, warning us about a growing problem," says zoologist Stephanie Avery-Gomm, the lead author of the study reported in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.
Dr Jennifer Lavers from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic studies at the University of Tasmania says the new Canadian findings reflect her own research on Australian seabirds.Fifteen years ago, 65 per cent of Australian marine birds were affected by plastics, and Lavers believes it could be closer to 85 per cent nowHer research on short-tailed and flesh-footed shearwaters has found that one hundred per cent of the birds now suffer from ingested plastics.Unfortunately it's bad for both species," says Lavers. "All the birds suffer things like perforations and blockages of the digestive system, or ingested toxins leaching from the plastics."Last week, I removed 442 pieces of plastic from an albatross chick only a few months old.