Reversing the tide on marine litter

Marine litter is becoming more common than sand at the beach and it’s threatening the lives of seabirds. In Germany, BirdLife partner NABU is taking some useful actions to combat the issue.  

It’s summer time, so it’s only natural that people – especially holiday-goers – are making a beeline for coasts and beaches. But as if jostling for space with other vacationers on the beach and water wasn’t enough, there’s also marine litter to contend with. This may seem like ‘just rubbish’ to us, but for seabirds, its effects can be devastating.

To prove just how serious an issue marine litter is, some of the species threatened by this are those protected under the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives (the laws that establish nature protection for specific species and habitats across the EU). Migratory species, such as the Roseate Tern, which nest in the summer on the northern hemisphere in Europe, gather food in the garbage-filled wintering area in the Gulf of Guinea off the West African coast. Gannets on Helgoland Island in the German Bight build their nests from scraps of degraded plastic strings from ropes used by boats (e.g. shipping and fishing) and fishing gear, in which particularly chicks get entangled or worse, strangled.

The decades-old Fulmar monitoring programme in the North Sea has shown that 95% of the stomachs of dead Fulmars contain plastic, which remains undigested for a lifetime, filling their bellies like a cruel diet pill.

Local daily beach cleaning measures are not enough, as the seas are now full of litter from the sea floor to the water’s surface, and its already in the food chain.This is why combating marine litter before it reaches the sea is fundamental to ensure we can achieve ‘Good Environmental Status’ (GES) of EU Seas by 2020 as set out in the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (a legislation that binds Member States to set up national targets and actions to achieve GES).

What is Germany’s Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) doing to save the seabirds? And what can you do to help? Read more here.

Nils Moellmann, Sea Protection Project Officer for NABU/BirdLife in Germany

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