Plastic waste and marine wildlife

Impact story

Plastic waste and marine wildlife

Every year, at least 8 million metric tonnes of plastic are dumped into the sea, ending up in what we call the ‘plastic soup’. In the North Sea, a significant portion of this plastic originates from the shipping and fishing industries. Seabirds and other animals accidentally eat plastic waste or become entangled in it.

Wageningen Marine Research investigates the impact of plastic waste on the environment and animal life at sea. Our institute has set up a permanent study to monitor plastics in the stomachs of a specific seabird species, the northern fulmar in the North Sea. Over the last 10-15 years, the quantity of plastic in the stomachs of North Sea fulmars has slightly decreased. However, plastic is still being found in over 90% of the fulmar stomachs. This research method is now being used across the world for northern fulmars as well as for other marine species.

The results of stomach investigations in northern fulmars are used by Dutch and European governments in order to evaluate environmental policy objectives. The research has contributed to community awareness of the risks of plastic waste and the need for appropriate measures.