While on Lord Howe we attended an information evening by renowned ecologist and bird photographer Ian Hutton. After introducing us to all the residential and visiting birds on the island he showed some horrific photos of dead chicks killed by ingesting plastic. Apparently sea birds think that anything floating on the sea is food, so they pick up pieces of plastic, bring them back to the nest or burrow, and feed their chicks. Researchers have found that the birds range as far as 500 km from the island, collecting the deadly plastic. How does it get there? Despite the remote location plastic that spills into the sea, particularly along the coast of Asia, finds its way south and is becoming more common in the Tasman Sea.
When we were in the forest above Middle Beach I noticed little sharp edged plastic fragments on the ground. It was an area rich in the burrows of the Flesh-footed Shearwater. These are the pieces of plastic I recovered in a few minutes walking along the trail. When I asked someone how they got there they said it could only have come from the dead bodies of chicks who perished from plastic ingestion. We can only try harder to clean up any debris that might enter the ocean and injure the birds and turtles and fish. Australian Ian Kiernan started a campaign many years ago to Clean up Australia, now he has taken it to the world! Join in wherever you are, the great struggle to clean up the world, to safe our wildlife and ourselves from the plastic menace. Consider your consumption choices carefully, ask manufacturers to reduce packaging, use your own shopping bags, avoid plastic drink bottles …. all this and more …. there must be hope for change if we all work together.
If you would like to know more about the problem this is an in-depth story by Catalyst, the Australian Science program, talking to a researcher this year.