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Plastic Waste on the High Seas

February 24, 2014

Heligoland is an important nesting site for seabirds. Some species only nest here, where they are safe from predators. But the seabirds have a new enemy - against which they have no natural defenses.


Many seabirds use whatever they can find as material for their nests - normally seaweed.

But increasingly, they're picking up bits of plastic trash floating on the sea, mostly scraps of fishing nets. But once a bird gets tangled up in them, it has little hope of getting out. Other seabirds go in search of food on the open sea. They gobble up whatever they find, but increasingly, what they find is plastic trash. The deluge of garbage has now reached the deepest depths and remotest corners of Earth's oceans. The Alfred Wegener Institute has been investigating deep-sea habitats and has discovered a dramatic development: From 2002 to 2011, the amount of trash they find on the ocean floor has doubled. The sources of the trash in the Arctic Ocean and the North Sea are thought to be commercial shipping and increasingly, fishing.

Plastic Waste on the High Seas