Iconic seabird colony polluted with ocean plastic, Greenpeace expedition finds

Last edited 11 May 2017 at 12:29pm
11 May, 2017

A research expedition by the crew of Greenpeace’s ship the Beluga II has revealed high levels of plastic pollution on the iconic Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth, home to the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets.

With studies showing that 90% of seabirds have ingested plastic, these shocking images reveal plastic around eggs in nests and strewn across the island, and even in the beaks of seabirds.

The findings come on the first day of research during the Beluga II’s scientific voyage around Scotland, which runs until the end of June, documenting the impact of plastic pollution on some of the UK’s most precious wildlife like puffins, gannets and basking sharks. 

See images from the expedition here.

This week scientists aboard the Beluga II conducted sea surface sampling for microplastics around the Bass Rock, finding suspected plastics in the water which will undergo further analysis on board and at Greenpeace’s Research Laboratories at Exeter University. The Beluga II’s crew then accessed the Bass Rock, accompanied by experts from the Scottish Seabird Centre, and investigated nests and surrounding areas for plastic.

“Being surrounded by tens of thousands of gannets on the Bass Rock is a stunning spectacle – but it’s seabirds like these which are acutely threatened by ocean plastic pollution,” said Willie Mackenzie, oceans expert at Greenpeace UK. “We found plastic bags, packaging, bits of old fishing gear and even crisp packets strewn across the island and surrounding eggs in nests. It’s no wonder that studies have shown that 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic.”

“A truckload of plastic enters the ocean every minute and 16 million plastic bottles end up in our environment every day in the UK. We need urgent action from major soft drinks companies, like Coca-Cola which produces over 100 billion throwaway plastic bottles every year, to reduce their plastic footprint, and we need governments to deliver initiatives like bottle deposit return schemes which can reduce the amount of plastic ending up on our beaches and in the sea.”

Notes to editors

For images from Bass Rock and the expedition, see: http://media.greenpeace.org/collection/27MZIFJJ5PVHW

For a reel of video clips from the Bass Rock, download here: https://we.tl/pyBZ1SHtxt

For general images of ocean plastic pollution, see: http://media.greenpeace.org/collection/27MZIFJJAYYJJ

About the expedition:

Greenpeace’s ship the Beluga II is on a two-month scientific voyage around Scotland’s coastlines, investigating the impact of ocean plastic pollution on some of the UK’s most beautiful landscapes and iconic wildlife.

Throughout May and June, the crew and scientists from Greenpeace’s Research Laboratories, based at Exeter University, will be aboard the Beluga II to carry out sea surface sampling for microplastics, survey remote beaches for pollution and investigate seabird nests for plastic during hatching season.

The expedition will take in sites of stunning beauty and biodiversity, including the Bass Rock, Gunna Sound, Mull, Rùm, Eigg, Skye, and the Shiant Isles in the Outer Hebrides. Along the way Greenpeace will work in collaboration with organisations such as the Scottish Seabird Centre, the Marine Conservation Society and others.

For more information on the expedition, interviews and comments, contact:

Luke Massey, Press & Communications Officer at Greenpeace UK, luke.massey@greenpeace.org, 07973 873 155

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