Ingestion of Plastic

Ingestion of plastic by marine organisms is less visible than entanglement. Table 4.2 and Online Supplement 1 show that ingestion of plastic debris has currently been documented for 100 % of marine turtles (7 of 7 species), 59 % of whales (47 of 80), 36 % of seals (12 of 33), and 40 % of seabirds (164 of 406). In comparison to the review by Laist (1997) the number of bird + turtle + mammal species with known ingestion of plastics increased from 143 (33 %) to 233 (44 %). Studies on the ingestion of plastics by fish and invertebrates are largely a recent development. Currently, low proportions of fish and invertebrate species are presented in the tables, but a rapid increase in publications and species numbers are expected in this currently dynamic field of research. Records of plastic ingestion date back to the early days of plastic production in the 1960s. One of the first birds recorded to contain plastic was Leach's storm petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) off New Foundland in 1962 (Rothstein 1973). The first report of a leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) with plastic dates back to 1968 (Mrosovsky et al. 2009). While the first record of anthropogenic debris in sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) was a fish hook found in a stomach in 1895, the first report of ingested plastic in sperm whales dates back to 1979 (de Stephanis et al. 2013). The first fish feeding on plastic was published in 1972 (Carpenter et al. 1972). The ingestion of plastics became a more commonly reported phenomenon from the 1970s onwards (Kenyon and Kridler 1969; Crockett and Reed 1976; Bourne and Imber 1982; Furness 1983; Day et al. 1985). A trend for birds ingesting plastic was probably first noted by Harper and Fowler (1987). Between 1958 and 1959 they found no plastic in prions (Pachyptila spp.) but from then on there was an upward trend in plastic consumption until 1977. A peak of plastic ingestion was detected in 1985 and 1995 in a number of long-term studies (Moser and Lee 1992; Robards et al. 1995; Spear et al. 1995; Mrosovsky et al. 2009; Van Franeker et al. 2011). In contrast to the continuing growth of global plastic use and increase in marine activities, the trend of plastic consumption decreased and stabilized from 2000 onwards approaching the 1980s level (Mrosovsky et al. 2009; Van Franeker et al.

Table 4.2 Number of species with documented records of ingestion of marine debris

Species group

Laist (1997)

This study

Spp. total

Ingestion

Spp. total

Ingestion

(n)

(n)

(%)

(n)

(n)

(%)

Seabirds

312

111

36

406

164

40.4

Anseriformes (marine ducks)

13

1

7.7

Gaviiformes (divers)

5

3

60.0

Sphenisciformes (penguins)

16

1

6

18

5

27.8

Procellariiformes (tubenoses)

99

62

63

141

84

59.6

Podicipediformes (grebes)

19

0

0

23

0

0.0

Pelecaniformes, suliformes, phaethontiformes (pelicans, gannets and boobies, tropicbirds)

51

8

16

67

16

23.9

Charadriiformes (gulls, skuas, terns and auks)

122

40

33

139

55

39.6

Marine mammals

115

26

23

123

62

50.4

Mysticeti (baleen whales)

10

2

20

13

7

53.8

Odontoceti (toothed whales)

65

21

32

65

40

61.5

Phocidae (true seals)

19

1

5

19

4

21.1

Otariidae (eared seals)

14

1

7

13

8

61.5

Sirenia (sea cows, dugongs)

4

1

25

5

3

60.0

Mustelidae (otters)

1

0

0

2

0

0.0

Ursidae (polar bears)

0

0

0

0

0

0.0

Turtles

7

6

86

7

7

100

Sea snakes

62

0

0.0

Fish

33

32,554

92

0.28

Invertebrates

1

159,000

6

0.004

Marine birds, mammals and turtles

434

143

32.9

536

233

43.5

All species

177

331

Comparative summary with the earlier major review by Laist (1997). Individual species and sources are documented in Online Supplement. Observations only concern non-simulated dead or living wild animals found in their natural habitat. We thus exclude experimental studies showing the potential for ingestion by marine species. Between the two reviews, the number of species in the groups considered, differ because of changes in accepted taxonomic status, and selection of which species groups should be considered to be 'marine'. For details see the Online Supplement

2011; Bond et al. 2013). Figure 4.4 illustrates the ingestion of plastic by northern fulmars.

 
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