Cape Town – The negative impact of plastic pollution on migratory birds, particularly ocean birds and their habitats, was the theme for this year’s World Migratory Bird Day.

The day was initiated in 2006 by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, an international body of the Agreement on the Conservation of African- Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (Aewa).

The Department of Environmental Affairs said the presence of plastic threatened migratory birds worldwide, through entanglement in fishing nets and ingestion of small plastic items.

Large numbers of birds were also smothered by plastic rings, and some seabirds, such as cormorants, gannets and gulls, had been seen incorporating plastic in their nesting materials.

In research published in 2015, South Africa was ranked 11th in a list of 20 countries for mismanaged waste that could potentially become marine litter, the department said.

Over 80% of all marine litter is composed of plastic, which, once it enters the environment, does not biodegrade.

“More than 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually, making it one of the most widely used materials worldwide. 

"Plastics are ubiquitous and can last for hundreds of years, resulting in mountains of waste once they are discarded, most of it used only once. 

"They persist in the environment and end up in landfill sites, but also in rivers and ultimately the ocean,” the department said.

Aewa data shows the number of seabirds dying from the effects of plastic annually is a million and growing.

It’s suggested that at least 40% of all seabird species contain ingested plastic.

The department said it would soon launch the Source-to-sea Programme to address the growing concern of litter from inland river systems, including catchment systems.



Cape Times