Long-term changes in the type, but not amount, of ingested plastic particles in short-tailed shearwaters in the southeastern Bering Sea

Lucy S Vlietstra, Joyce A Parga
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2002, 44 (9): 945-55
We report the current (1997-1999, 2001) incidence and amount of ingested plastic in short-tailed shearwaters (Puffinus tenuirostris) in the southeastern Bering Sea and compare our results with plastic reported in shearwaters during 1970-1978. We also examine correlations between plastic loads and shearwater body mass. We found that 84% (N = 330) of shearwaters sampled in 1997-1999 and 2001 contained plastic. The incidence and amount of ingested plastic have not significantly changed since the 1970s. In contrast, the predominant type of plastic has changed over time, from industrial plastic to user plastic. S,asonal patterns in the incidence and amount of ingested plastic also changed from peak levels during early and late summer in the 1970s to mid summer in the late 1990s and 2001. We suggest that the availability of neuston plastic to seabirds in the Bering Sea has undergone a shift in composition since the 1970s. Shearwater body mass appears little if at all impaired by plastic, at least at present levels of consumption.

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