Sea-scented plastic revisited

Published on
June 30, 2017

A recent American study suggested that seabirds eat plastic, because a scent produced by algae growing on the plastic would cause confusion with food. This theory has been contradicted by an international group of biologists in a scientific commentary.

In a previous news article (11 Nov 2016), Wageningen Marine Research biologist Jan Andries van Franeker gave a personal response to a scientific publication arguing that algal biofilms on marine plastic litter would spread a scent that could lure seabirds into eating those plastics.

In an online interview with ‘Resource’, Van Franeker expressed some critical notes about that publication, and in particular objected to the suggestion of adding chemicals to add antifouling agents to plastics, to reduce biofilm formation on marine debris. By an initiative of French researcher Gaia Dell'Ariccia, a group of congenial biologists has published a comprehensive comment to this effect in the same scientific journal.

More information

Comprehensive comment publication

Dell'Ariccia, G., Phillips, R.A., Van Franeker, J.A., Gaidet, N., Catry, P., Granadeiro, J.P., Ryan, P.G. & Bonadonna, F.  2017. Comment on "Marine plastic debris emits a keystone infochemical for olfactory foraging seabirds" by Savoca et al., Science Advances 3, e1700526, 3 pp. (open access).