Plastic litter and fur seals in Antarctica
Together with the Chilean Antarctic Institute and the British Antarctic Survey, IMARES has started an investigation of plastic litter, large and small, in the Antarctic. The focus in this research is on plastics and Fur seals. Commissioned by the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs we conducted a first series of analyses with results published a preliminary report.
Scats of fur seals were collected on the Antarctic Peninsula and the subantarctic South Georgia. These faecal remains were analysed for food as well as the presence of plastic debris. In a small number of cases, plastics were found, likely ingested by the fur seals through fish in their diet. Subantarctic seals had more often ingested debris than those from the Antarctic Peninsula. These are valuable baseline data to follow the spread of microplastics in the global oceans. Around the Chilean base at Cape Shirreff further research was done into presence of microplastic in coastal sediments, the abundance of macro-litter on the beaches, and entanglement of wildlife. Fortunately the latter was restricted to a single fur seal and a single chinstrap penguin.