Seabirds are more at risk of dying due to plastic in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world – new research presented to parliament has shown.
New Zealand is considered ‘the seabird capital of the world’ according to the country’s Department of Conservation with the northern royal albatross raising their chicks on the Otago Peninsula – unique species of oystercatchers on the Chatham Islands and more penguin species than any country in the world.
There are 36 seabird species that breed only in New Zealand.
Mexico is a distant second with just five.
More than a third of all seabird species are known to spend time in New Zealand’s waters.
Karen Baird from conservation group Forest & Bird which produced the report said: ‘Rubbish that ends up in our seas has a far worse effect on seabird species than anywhere else in the world’.
‘Even though we don’t have the most plastic pollution we are unique in the world in having so many seabirds species.
We also have the most threatened seabird species – many of which are found nowhere else’.
Seabirds are particularly vulnerable to eating plastic because they are surface feeders – spotting food from the air and swooping down on it – scooping it up and swallowing it before the mistake is realised.
Seabird chicks and adults face starvation when their stomachs fill up with plastic rather than food.