Phthalates Found in Aleutian Island Seabirds

The chemicals that Padula looks for in sea birds are called phthalates. They are a family of chemicals used to make plastic more flexible, and they can leach into the muscle and liver tissues of birds.

Padula found those chemicals in all of the birds she collected in the west Aleutians. But only some birds had visible pieces of plastic in their stomach.

Microplastics Found in Birds of Prey

“The implications are obvious and severe,” said Jim Elliott, director of the Center for Birds of Prey, about the discovery of the repellents and retardants in all 27 birds sampled among eagles, hawks and owls. “Who’s next on the (food chain) ladder? It’s us.”

“Giant Hotspot” in Alaskan Waters Attracts Unusual Species

“The Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea have become … unusually warm in a way that has species showing up in very odd places and could have lasting implications for fisheries in both places,” said Michael Milstein of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. “Parts of the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea are close to 5 degrees F higher than average. Warm conditions like this in the past have had effects on fisheries.”

Acidification Impacting Alaska Fisheries

Studies show that red king crab and tanner crab, two important Alaskan fisheries, grow more slowly and don’t survive as well in more acidic waters. Alaska’s coastal waters are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification because of cold water that can absorb more carbon dioxide, and unique ocean circulation patterns which bring naturally acidic deep ocean waters to the surface.

Acidic Oceans and the Lobster, Scallop, & Crab Industry

Today, experts predict pH declines in the world’s oceans of .4 units by the end of this century—a mere 85 years from now.

The oceans absorb over a quarter of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The more we pollute, the more they absorb, and the more acidic they become. It’s unlikely that some marine life that we depend on will be able to adapt to a rate of acidification that is over ten times as fast as during the PETM.