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Posted Sat May 14 2011: from Sydney Morning Herald:
Deadly diet of marine plastic kills seabirds
Seabirds which forage in the Tasman Sea are mistaking plastic for food, eating it and perishing on Lord Howe Island. "The problem is here - in our backyard," a zoologist, Jennifer Lavers, said. Large amounts of plastic are being recovered from flesh-footed shearwaters on Lord Howe. In the latest survey, one bird's stomach contained more than 200 pieces and others held more than 50. The sharp-edged fragments tear internal organs and toxic substances bind to the plastic. Mercury, which is toxic to birds at four parts per million, was found in the shearwaters at up to 30,000 ppm, according to Dr Lavers. The bird's numbers are plummeting on Lord Howe, once an Australian stronghold. Dr Lavers, of the Tasmanian Museum, said in last month's survey 95 per cent of nesting shearwaters had some plastic in their stomachs and it was hard to find living chicks.... The shearwater population on Lord Howe has at least halved since the 1970s. Even so, in a good year 50 per cent of burrows contained chicks. "This year we checked more than 200 nests and we found six chicks - one of them dead," Dr Lavers said. "We have to ask: 'is this just a bad year, or is this population tanking?'."
[Read more stories about: plastic problems, toxic buildup, heavy metals]

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