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If you don’t pick up your rubbish, they will

Albatross

Today we launch a campaign aimed at raising awareness around the truly shocking effects of litter that makes it onto our beaches and into our oceans. The ad for this campaign (which can be seen and downloaded on this page) features a disturbing photo of the decomposing remains of an albatross bird: its stomach filled with pieces of plastic.

The bottle caps, cigarette lighters, drinking straws and all other manner of disposable plastic products that we drop on our streets can very quickly end up out at sea and on our beaches. Once rubbish gets into coastal and marine environments it has devastating effects on wildlife. This photo will challenge the way that people think about and deal with their rubbish.

This photo was taken on Midway Atoll – a tiny set of sandy islets in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, thousands of kilometres from the nearest continent. Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles and spinner dolphins frequent the stunning turquoise waters of this remote atoll, and almost two million seabirds – including the world’s largest breeding population of the majestic Laysan albatross – breed and feed their young there each year.

But the albatrosses are dying, the oceans are polluted, and the atoll is strewn with plastic and the rotting carcasses of litter-choked seabirds. Aside from the usual mash of squid and partly digested flying-fish eggs, nesting albatross chicks here are fed a cocktail of human trash by their parents, who collect what they mistake as food and bring it back to their young. The sheer volume of plastics in the chicks’ stomachs leaves little room for food, and many die of starvation. What’s left in their decomposing remains resembles what you’d expect to find in a rubbish bin, landfill or — as we’ve found — an urban street or drain.

We found the effect of litter in our drains by cleaning-up the city-facing side of Aotea/Great Barrier Island over two events a year apart. Many tonnes of plastic rubbish constantly flows out of metropolitan Auckland and to the island in the prevailing south-westerly wind: we proved this by removing even more rubbish in this year’s event from the same stretch of coast we scoured just one year earlier. We’re continuing to work on large-scale events alongside hard-hitting media campaigns to raise awareness in the community about marine debris.

The simple message is being adopted widely as New Zealanders look to protect their beloved coastlines: Adshel invited us to use the advertising space, while Pitstop and Benefitz contributed to make the campaign possible. US photographer Chris Jordan kindly provided the stunning photo.

An incredible line-up of performers is also backing us by donating their time to play at our fundraising ball on the 18th of September at the Hilton Auckland. New Zealand’s top concert pianist, Michael Houstoun, will be performing, as well as the sensational Hollie Smith, jazz legends the Nairobi Trio and newcomer Bella Kalolo, who is currently nominated as best female vocalist for the Pacific Music Awards.

To make a donation to help fund our ongoing work on projects to sustain and protect coastlines around New Zealand and around the world, simply head to our donate page.