Plastic Particles in Fulmars


Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis, left ©Daniele1357) are seabirds that belong to the large group of the tubenoses, of which the albatrosses are the best known representatives. These birds forage exclusively at sea and never on land, and rarely forage close to shore. The fulmar is a poor diver, and thus feeds on what is available at or within a few metres of the water surface. Like most tubenosed seabirds, fulmars regularly ingest a variety of marine debris. Unlike most gulls, fulmars do not normally regurgitate indigestible components of their diet, but gradually grind these into sizes small enough to pass into the intestines and be excreted. Fulmar stomach contents therefore integrate litter abundance encountered during feeding over periods of days to weeks.

OSPAR therefore developed an indicator based on the stomach contents of fulmars to assess changes in the quantities of floating litter, in the North Sea, and give an indication of the impact on biota. OSPAR has a long-term goal of less than 10% of fulmars exceeding a level of 0.1 g of plastic in their stomachs.

The most recent assessment of Plastic Particles in Fulmar Stomachs was undertaken in 2019 and showed that currently 56% of beached North Sea fulmars have more than 0.1 g of plastics in their stomachs, exceeding the OSPAR long-term goal of 10%. This reflects the abundance of floating litter and provides an indication of harm. The amounts of ingested plastics have decreased significantly over the past ten years. When considering the growth in marine activity and the increasing proportion of plastics in wastes, the observed stability in the indicator could be viewed positively. Even though the OSPAR long-term goal is still far from being achieved, it remains valid as a global assessment level.


OSPAR Plastic Particles in Fulmar Stomachs - 2015:

Data available here: https://odims.ospar.org/maps/1580/view