The endangered Albatross is a victim of plastic pollution

The plight of the endangered Albatross species

The magnificent seabird known as the albatross is in serious danger and as many as 19 of the 21 species known are threatened with extinction. Today I watched what I can only describe as the saddest video I have ever seen.

Albatross chicks are dying because their parents feed them with plastic items that they have mistaken for food such as squid and other marine creatures. The baby birds cannot digest the plastic and they die and their parents can do nothing. The poor birds don't even know what is killing them.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The albatross was immortalised in the words of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in which the seaman is punished for killing one of these birds by having it hung around his neck.Today,whilst the birds are dying from many human causes no one is being punished for their deaths.

Albatrosses have so much against their chances of survival. For a start, they take over five years before they are sexually mature. Many types then mate for life after an elaborate courtship dance, and under ideal conditions the birds would have a long life and a successful marriage. Sadly this is no longer the case for many of them.

Besides the increasing threat of marine plastic pollution that is killing chicks, albatrosses are dying because they get caught on fishing lines and drown. They are also having problems finding enough food in overfished seas.

On the islands where the birds breed another danger is caused by introduced species such as cats and rats, against which they have no natural defences. Albatrosses evolved to breed on land where there were no predators.

In the past albatrosses have been hunted both as food and for their feathers.

Albatross photo

Phoebastria immutabilis (Laysan Albatross) breeding.
Phoebastria immutabilis (Laysan Albatross) breeding.
Albatross chick remains
Albatross chick remains

David de Rothschild and the Plastiki

In 2010, adventurer, author and environmentalist David de Rothschild went on an expedition across the Pacific Ocean on a catamaran built entirely from recycled plastic water bottles.

This strange craft was known as the Plastiki, and one of David's aims was to raise global awareness about the danger of marine pollution and the threat to seabirds, turtles and other forms of life that mistake plastic for food items. He sailed from San Francisco in America all the way to Sydney in Australia.

The Plastiki travelled past the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a vast mass of floating rubbish said to be as big as the State of Texas. Most of it is floating plastic.

Plastic trash that gets thrown away can end up carried by the ocean currents to add to the mass of garbage or it can end up killing a turtle that thought a plastic bag was a jellyfish or a baby albatross whose parents fed a plastic item to it.

I find it hard to think of anything that would be so tragic and sad as the extinction of these beautiful birds brought about by our throwaway consumer culture's plastic rubbish.

World biggest garbage dump - plastic in the Ocean

© 2010 Steve Andrews

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Comments 26 comments

nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

Anthropogenic global warming is nonsense but The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is undeniable. If Al Gore truly cared about this little blue marble we call home, he'd focus on this planetary mess. It's a bad bad thing.

http://www.cdnn.info/news/article/a071104.html


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago

Nice job. Too bad.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you for your posts, Nicomp and Ralph!


fen lander profile image

fen lander 6 years ago from Whitstable

Aaggh! I can hardly take in what we've allowed to happen. How can we solve this? Anyone got a very big idea on what to do? God bless the indestructible plastics manufacturers and the oil companies that killed off hemp production via back-door legislation leaving us with little alternative but to destroy the world we live on, using the plastics products which have made them wealthy.

Great article Bard.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks, Fen! Yes, the scale of this is mind-blowing in a nightmarish way! It is insanity! As I see it the best we can do now is stop it getting any worse and get more businesses using recycled plastics and get more and more recycling being actually done. The only way this will happen is if enough people take action so first of all they need to know what is going on.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

"Anyone got a very big idea on what to do? God bless the indestructible plastics manufacturers and the oil companies that killed off..."

Sure, and let's blame GM for every car accident. It's not Big Plastic's fault that their customers are pigs.


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

This is so sad - yes, maybe the only thing we can do right now is to halt the damage and try and look at alternatives instead of just living for the day and not thinking about tomorrow!


2patricias profile image

2patricias 6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

We live by the sea and are appalled at the plastic that is washed up with every tide.

Our contribution is to try to reduce the amount of packaging that we buy (and sometimes we write to big companies to complain about packaging) plus we are enthusiastic about recycling.

Thanks for this hub - this issue needs a lot of publicity.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you again for posting Nicomp, and thank you too, Shalini and 2patricias! I agree it needs a lot of publicity. That is one thing David de Rothschild is achieving via his Plastiki expedition.


ralwus 6 years ago

Yes, I have been aware of this problem for some time now. The area in the Pacific is like the Sargasso Sea with its natural flotsam and seaweeds, only this is made up of tennis shoes and plastic bags and much more. I think if people would just do away with the bags it would help, but much damage has been done. How to clean it all up is the question. Man is so stupid yet so brilliant, we need a brilliant answer.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

To my mind it could be cleaned up if fleets of special trawlers were sent to collect it and take it back to land where it could be sorted and recycled accordingly. This is what governments should spend money on in a sane world. It would take many years but it could be done.


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

What we can DO.... is everything! Every little thing each of us does is mounting! Lets mount some heaping pressure. For one BUY less plastic. BUY less junk.... WOW great work and we could all do pieces like this one. It's insane to know many cities don't have a recycling program. It should be a LAW. What good are laws anyway if not for the good of all. Don't get me started. Peace and thanks for the AMAZING Work! Peace :)


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

What a sad commentary this is. I had no idea of the totality of the ecosystem in which seabirds and turtles exist.

This is criminal.

Laurel


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you Katiem2 and Laurel!

Katiem2, I agree with you, and please do do a piece like this, and Laurel, yes, it is criminal!


nextstopjupiter profile image

nextstopjupiter 6 years ago from here, there and everywhere

All those who are responsible for producing these plastics should be forced to eat them for one day, but maybe it is already too late for the albatrosses, very sad story ...


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Unfortunately plastics are now in the food chain. Fish, whales, turtles and seabirds are all swallowing plastic if it is only the tiny particles in the water. Plankton feeders are unable to only eat plankton. In some places there are six parts of plastic to one of plankton. That is how insane this is. Also all plastic that has ever been made with the exception of plastic which has been incinerated or recycled still exists somewhere in the environment. There is a lot in landfills but a tremendous amount is in the marine environment worldwide. No one can say what the long-term damage will be from this. Yes, you are right it is very very sad indeed!

Please see what David de Rothschild has had to say on the subject here:

http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/03/07/derothschild.op...


Ann Nonymous profile image

Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

Very interesting hub and I had no idea! The graphic pics help raise awareness of this plight. So, well done hub, Bard of Ely!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Ann!


ALex 6 years ago

hmm, nasty. thanks for doing the hub, maybe could do with a bit more about what we your readers can do to stop it. as for who is to blame, yes the people who throw plastic away like that are, but so also are individuals in the plastics industry, pursuing money over the environment, putting plastics in places where card or paper or wood could be used. i went to the pastiki site and took the pledge but i already do all i can to reduce plastic use and recycle and clear up wild environs when i'm out.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Alex, for your comments, doing your bit and supporting the Plastiki pledge. I agree with you that the companies that create plastic are being irresponsible. I remember paper bags and glass bottles but now in supermarkets where most people shop so many things are packaged in plastic. I think it is up to individuals to decide for themselves what they should do. I know from listening to David de Rothschild that he feels that we are not going to get rid of plastic, nor should we, but we should be looking at new ways of using it and increasing recycling. Personally I would love companies and shops to go back to glass bottles and jars and paper bags. All that way used to work fine.


Graham 6 years ago

The odds certainly seemed stacked against this creature. The oceans and seas are viewed as nothing more than `dumping grounds` and because of their vastness there is little policing that can be done.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Yes, Graham, very sadly it looks that way! Thank you for posting!


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia

The plastic is truly terrible and I have used those photos in my blog before. Equally as bad though is the huge number of birds hooked and drowned by long line fishing. This is where hundreds of baited hooked lines are trailed off the back of a boat. The Albatrosses dive down on the bait and are hooked and drown. They are getting a really rough deal. Thanks for the hub.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Peter!


jayjay40 profile image

jayjay40 6 years ago from Bristol England

How dreadful that things like this happen. Thanks for high-lighting this issue


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Jayjay!

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