The North Pacific Ocean is now commonly referred to as the world's largest garbage dump with an area the size of the continental United States covered in plastic debris. The highly mobile Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis), which forages throughout the North Pacific, is quickly becoming the poster child for the effects of plastic ingestion on marine animals due to their tendency to ingest large amounts of plastic.
Reporting in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, Dr. Lindsay Young of the University of Hawaii and her colleagues examined whether Laysan albatrosses nesting on Kure Atoll and Oahu, Hawaii, 2,150 km away, ingested different amounts of plastic by putting miniaturized tracking devices on birds to follow them at sea and examining their regurgitated stomach contents. Surprisingly, birds from Kure Atoll ingested almost ten times the amount of plastic compared to birds from Oahu.
Data from the tracking devices revealed that the birds were distributed over separate areas of the North Pacific during the breeding season and that birds from Kure overlapped considerably with the area of the 'western garbage patch' off of Asia which resulted in their greatly increased plastic ingestion.
"We were very surprised with the results," indicates lead author Lindsay Young. "We suspected that there may be some differences in the amount of plastic that was ingested, but to discover that birds on Kure Atoll ingested ten times the amount of plastic compared to birds on Oahu was shocking. Particularly since the colony on Oahu is less than an hour outside of urban Honolulu, and is much closer to the garbage patch in the Eastern Pacific between Hawaii and California that has received so much attention."
Young indicates that these results were further supported when the plastic items were examined virtually all of the plastic pieces recovered from birds on Kure Atoll had Asian characters on them indicating their like
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