The danger lurking in NZ waters
Despite the energy and resources that both the New Zealand people and our government put into keeping our waters free from illegal fishing and trawling, as well as hazards such as oil spills, there is still at least one major threat to seabirds around the country.
That danger is plastic in the ocean, and a recent study from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Imperial College London has highlighted just how invasive such items pose to birdlife.
The issue is that when plastic finds its way to the ocean, sea birds will often ingest these materials, which will then remain in the bird’s gut for the rest of its life. Plastics include common items such as bottle caps, bags, and fibres from synthetic clothing.
Back in the 1960s, researchers found that approximately 5 per cent of sea birds had plastic in their stomachs, but the latest study suggests that as much as 99 per cent of sea birds will encounter this problem by 2050, based on current trends.
The result of a bird ingesting plastic includes everything from weight loss and gut impaction to the death of the bird.
Plastic in the ocean is a massive problem around New Zealand in particular, both because of our geography and the diversity of our wildlife. The rubbish tends to gather around areas in the Southern Ocean, and as there is a high number of endemic species of sea birds around our shores, this signals a major threat to our marine life.
Small measures can make big differences, and the simple action of adding a charge for plastic bags in supermarkets around the country has already seen a marked reduction in their use. Further reductions and better waste management can also help the situation, which is something we believe in on all of our day tours around Auckland.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist