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New Zealand must take global lead in ocean plastic crisis

Forest & Bird has told Parliament’s Environment Committee this morning that New Zealand must become a global leader in tackling the oceans plastic crisis.

Forest & Bird’s seabird advocate, Karen Baird, told MPs that plastic in the marine environment is becoming a global challenge on the scale and significance of climate change.

“We now know that seabirds are especially vulnerable to plastics, as it has been found that marine-seasoned microplastics produce a substance that seabirds are attracted to – in other words they believe that they are eating food when they eat plastics.”

“With more endemic seabird species (36 species) than anywhere else in the world, New Zealand has the most cause to act with urgency on reducing plastic marine pollution. Failing to do so would be a complete dereliction of our duty to protect our unique wildlife."

“Global production of plastics is doubling every 11 years. At current rates, there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) in the ocean by 2050,” Ms Baird said.

Forest & Bird is urging Parliament to create a circular economy for plastics and work with the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) to create a legally binding international agreement on marine litter and microplastics.

New Zealand is recognised as the seabird capital of the world, with:

More threatened seabird species than anywhere in the world

Highest number of endemic seabirds in the world (36 species), seven times higher than Mexico in second place (five species)

More than one-third of all seabird species in the world spend part of their lives within New Zealand’s waters.

Forest & Bird's submission on marine plastics here (PDF).

ends

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