Journal: Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 57, 3562–3570, 2023
Procellariiform seabirds like northern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) are prone to ingest and accumulate floating plastic pieces. In the North Sea region, there is a long tradition to use beached fulmars as biomonitors for marine plastic pollution. Monitoring data revealed consistently lower plastic burdens in adult fulmars compared to younger age classes. Those findings were hypothesized to partly result from parental transfer of plastic to chicks. However, no prior study has examined this mechanism in fulmars by comparing plastic burdens in fledglings and older fulmars shortly after the chick-rearing period. Therefore, we investigated plastic ingestion in 39 fulmars from Kongsfjorden (Svalbard), including 21 fledglings and 18 older fulmars (adults/older immatures). We found that fledglings (50−60 days old) had significantly more plastic than older fulmars. While plastic was found in all fledglings, two older fulmars contained no and several older individuals barely any plastic. These findings supported that fulmar chicks from Svalbard get fed high quantities of plastic by their parents. Adverse effects of plastic on fulmars were indicated by one fragment that perforated the stomach and possibly one thread perforating the intestine. Negative correlations between plastic mass and body fat in fledglings and older fulmars were not significant.