Press Release 25 March 2015

news 10PRESS RELEASE 25 Mar 2015 

Forth puffins found with plastic nurdles in their stomachs

Often called the 'clown of the sea', it is no joke that puffins found on a National Nature Reserve are mistaking plastic 'nurdles' for food.

Puffins collected on the Isle of May have recently been dissected by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and as well as finding sand eels, their normal food, in their stomachs they also found small plastic pellets about the size of a lentil.

Mark Newell from CEH explained, "We regularly collect puffins found dead on the Island to help us monitor the health of the population. As part of this research we look at what they have been eating. At first we didn't know what the strange pieces of plastics were, but we found them in a number of the puffins' stomachs. When 'The Great Nurdle Hunt' contacted us asking if we had found any small plastic pellets in the seabirds we were studying I realised they were nurdles."

Nurdles are the plastic industries' raw material. Melted together they form nearly all the plastic products we use. Accidental spills mean billions of these pellets now litter the world's oceans and the Forth is no exception.

Tom Brock OBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, said, "The Isle of May is of international importance for puffins and soon tens of thousands of them will return for the start of the breeding season. To hear of puffins ingesting nurdles in the Firth of Forth is very alarming news. Not only can nurdles get trapped in their stomach but the toxic chemicals on the surface of the plastic may have terrible repercussions. It is vital that we all do what we can to resolve this issue."

Iain Rennick, Scottish Natural Heritage's Unit Manager for Forth said: "The Isle of May attracts around 250,000 seabirds each year making it one of Scotland's largest breeding seabird colonies. It also has one of the UK's largest breeding populations of puffins. While we don't fully understand all the impacts they have, nurdles and other marine litter are a real threat to all our marine wildlife. It's important to do all we can to keep our seas clean and litter-free."

Cathy Sexton of 'The Great Nurdle Hunt' said, "For almost a year locals from around the Forth and beyond have been scouring the coast hunting for nurdles and reporting their findings to The Great Nurdle Hunt. It's clear from the sightings that there is a serious problem around the Forth. They are turning up on most of our beaches and some parts of the estuary are littered with thousands of them.

We have contacted the plastic companies around the Forth and using the public sightings shown them the impact nurdles are having on the local environment. By adopting simple changes to their operations local plastics companies who manufacture, transport or use nurdles can prevent any risk of spills ending up in the estuary. I am pleased to say that as a result we are now in discussion with a number of those companies who are keen to help keep nurdles out of the Forth. However this discovery on the Forth's National Nature Reserves is a disturbing and serious reminder of the effects nurdles are having on wildlife and the pressing need for industry to act to prevent more seabirds from being affected."


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