Children taking part in a beach clean-up as part of our Great Coromandel Coastal Clean-up made a grisly discovery in Colville Harbour last week. Among the rope, food wrappers and beverage bottles collected from the beach, a decomposing carcass of a seabird was found with chunks of plastic where its stomach once was.
The bird – an Oystercatcher – was discovered by students from Colville School just minutes after they had learned about this problem during an educational presentation from Brand Manager, Camden Howitt. Oystercatchers normally feed on mussels, oysters, limpets, crabs and small fish, but this one had eaten several small shards of plastic, mistaking them for food. “The children were shocked to see the issue so starkly illustrated in their own backyard,” said Howitt.
This was not the first time Howitt has seen rubbish affecting wildlife and he is not expecting it to be the last.
“We have witnessed colonies of Black Backed Gulls nesting amongst piles of rubbish on Auckland’s Rangitoto Island and seen Pied Shags wrapped in plastic in the Bay of Plenty,” says Howitt. “We even found a Little Blue Penguin strangled by a plastic bottle ring on Aotea/Great Barrier Island and horribly, turtles have washed up dead in the Hauraki Gulf with plastic in their guts.”
Around the world, plastic rubbish enters and pollutes our oceans at an alarming rate. Once there, it has devastating effects on the marine life it comes into contact with. An estimated 1,000,000 seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed every year because they eat, or get trapped in rubbish.
Plastic pollution in our seas is primarily caused by individual littering. Around the world, 80% of marine debris comes from land-based sources and over half of that is single-use, disposable items. We can all look after our coastlines by disposing of our litter carefully, whether we are at the beach or on the street. Choosing to buy less disposable, single-use plastic products helps too and if you want to go a step further join one of our upcoming events today.