Sea plastic’s impact on albatross is ‘heartbreaking’

Sir David Attenborough has spoken of the “heartbreaking” experience of seeing an albatross trying to feed her chicks with plastic.

Sir David was speaking about the filming of his highly successful wildlife documentary Blue Planet.

He said: “The albatross are such marvellous birds.

“They form partnerships for 50 years, they circle the Antarctic collecting food, they come back to their mates at the same place, but they also feed their young.

“And there’s a shot of the young being fed and what comes out of the mouth, of the beak of the adult?

“Not sand eels and not fish and not squid, which is what they mostly eat.


“And it’s heartbreaking. Heartbreaking.”

The albatross is just one species caught up in the terrible effect that plastic is having on the world’s oceans.

The Laysan albatross us particularly at risk of accidentally eating plastic

Every minute, the equivalent of a rubbish-truck load of plastic goes into the oceans but it does not decompose and will remain forever.

According to the US Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, one type of albatross in particular – the Laysan – suffers especially badly.

The Laysan albatross catches fish by skimming the surface of the water with its beak, inadvertently picking up floating plastic, which they then feed to chicks.

While the adults can regurgitate their food, the chicks cannot and so it remains in their stomachs.

If people continue to dispose of plastic at the same rate as today, then by 2050 the ocean’s plastic could weigh more than the fish.

Prince Charles met a Northern Royal Albatross and its chick in New Zealand in 2005

The plastic can kill sea animals by strangling them or the plastic in an animal’s stomach can make it feel full and stop eating, even though it is actually starving.

The plastic also impacts the wider ecosystem: marine life get caught in it, eat it and live in it. It also has a direct impact…

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