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Danish study finds 95 percent of dead petrels ingested plastic

The Danish study showed 95 percent of the dead seabirds had ingested plastic, ultimately clogging their stomachs and leaving to starvation (AFP Photo/MARCEL MOCHET)

Copenhagen (AFP) - More than 90 percent of northern petrels found dead off the Danish coast had plastic in their stomachs, a study by Denmark's environmental protection agency said Thursday.

"More than 95 percent of corpses of northern petrels found on Danish beaches contain plastic," according to study author John Pedersen.

The petrel, a seabird mainly found in the North Sea and the North Atlantic, generally hunt for food on the surface of the sea, where untold quantities of plastic debris float.

"They fish ... and if there is a little bit of plastic that comes too," leading to a gradual accumulation of plastics in the stomach, said Pedersen, cited by the Danish news agency Ritzau.

"This (plastic) gives them the feeling of being full, but it is not food so they die of hunger," Pedersen added.

The amount of plastic debris floating in the world's oceans has become a major environmental concern worldwide. In March, a whale which had starved to death and washed up off the Philippines was found to have 40 kilos (88 pounds) of plastic waste in its stomach.

The European Union recently voted to ban from 2021 single-use plastic products such as straws, cutlery and cotton buds which the European Commission estimates as comprising some 70 percent of plastic waste clogging the world's oceans.

Some of that ends up ingested by a number of species from turtles, seals, whales and seabirds but also fish and shellfish destined for human consumption.