Plastics in the Pacific: Assessing risk from ocean debris for marine birds in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem

Understanding the impact of plastic debris on marine birds is important for conservation of some species, and assessing risk from this anthropogenic threat requires high-quality distribution data for both marine birds and plastic debris. We applied a risk assessment framework to explore the relative risk for 19 marine bird species posed by plastic debris in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. We estimated exposure for each species by combining scores from (1) spatial overlap of predicted marine bird densities from habitat-association models and predicted density of marine plastics from terrestrial input and ocean circulation models, (2) species’ foraging behavior, and (3) species’ residence time in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. We estimated sensitivity for each species by combining scores for (1) mortality/sub-lethal effects of ingested plastic debris, (2) off-loading of plastics via regurgitation, (3) fecundity, and (4) age of breeding maturity. Overall risk from marine debris was greatest for more pelagic species and lowest for nearshore coastal species and generally agreed with published plastic ingestion studies. Notably, marine plastic debris densities are greatest at the western edge and offshore of the study domain, which likely explains the greater risk we observed in more pelagic species. This study is the first to look specifically at plastic debris risk to marine birds in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem, and our results suggest that any attempts to mitigate the impacts of plastic debris on marine birds will likely require assessment and actions beyond the California Current into the broader Pacific basin.

Latest Posts

Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022

Guidelines on Extended Producer Responsibility for Plastic Packaging. These guidelines provides framework for implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility. The Guidelines provide the roles and responsibilities of Producers, Importers, Brand Owners, Central Pollution Control Board, State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committees, recyclers and waste processors for effective implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility. Please note[…]

POLICY BRIEF (Input Paper): Prevention of Marine Litter in India

The Policy Brief gives an overview of the current waste management related policy ecosystem and provides preliminary recommendations based on desk research, specifically on marine litter in India.  

Draft Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2022

The Government of India announced the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, which will prohibit the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of single use plastics (including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene) by 2022. To stop litering and promote reuse, the thickness of plastic carry bags have been increased. Please note that “English text follows[…]

Draft resolution- End plastic pollution: Towards an international legally binding instrument

Environment ministers around the globe agreed to create an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to create an international agreement to end plastic pollution at the fifth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), held in Nairobi, Kenya, between February 28 and March 2, 2022.    

Baseline assessment of microplastic concentrations in marine and freshwater environments of a developing Southeast Asian country, Viet Nam

Developing country facilities, financial and human resources prevent complete application of sampling, analysis, and observation protocols used in developed countries neccitating adaptations. Researchers in Vietnam developed and standardized a methodology for microplastic monitoring in sediments and surface waters of 21 environments (rivers, lakes, bays, beaches) of eight cities or provinces. The concentrations of microplastics in[…]