Greenpeace reveals extent of plastic pollution crisis on iconic seabird sanctuary

A research expedition by the crew of Greenpeace’s ship the Beluga II has revealed high levels of plastic pollution on the iconic Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth.The world famous island is home to the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets.

  • Full feature in Issue No. 7

Greenpeace discovered plastic pollution among Gannets on the Bass Rock

Photograph by: GreenpeacePlastic waste and gannets at Bass Rock

A study carried out by scientists working with the environmental campaigners has discovered that 90 percent of seabirds have ingested plastic.

A series of shocking images captured by the Greenpeace team show plastic debris littering the rock, around eggs in nests and strewn across the island, and even in the beaks of seabirds.

The findings were revealed on the first day of research during the Beluga II’s scientific voyage around Scotland, which runs until the end of June, documenting the impact of plastic pollution on some of the UK’s most precious wildlife like puffins, gannets and basking sharks.

Scientists aboard the Beluga II began by conducting sea surface sampling for microplastics around the Bass Rock, finding suspected plastics in the water which will undergo further analysis on board and at Greenpeace’s Research Laboratories at Exeter University.

The Beluga II’s crew then accessed the Bass Rock, accompanied by experts from the Scottish Seabird Centre, and investigated nests and surrounding areas for plastic.

Photograph by: Kajsa Sjolander/GreenpeacePlastic waste was found scattered all over the rock

“Being surrounded by tens of thousands of gannets on the Bass Rock is a stunning spectacle – but it’s seabirds like these which are acutely threatened by ocean plastic pollution,” said Willie Mackenzie, oceans expert at Greenpeace UK.

“We found plastic bags, packaging, bits of old fishing gear and even crisp packets strewn across the island and surrounding eggs in nests. It’s no wonder that studies have shown that 90 percent of seabirds have eaten plastic.”

“A truckload of plastic enters the ocean every minute and 16 million plastic bottles end up in our environment every day in the UK. We need urgent action from major soft drinks companies to reduce their plastic footprint, and we need governments to deliver initiatives like bottle deposit return schemes which can reduce the amount of plastic ending up on our beaches and in the sea.”

Photograph by: Kajsa Sjolander / GreanpeaceThe Greenpeace ship the Beluga II at Bass Rock,

Throughout May and June, the crew and scientists from Greenpeace’s Research Laboratories on board the Beluga II, aim to carry out sea surface sampling for microplastics, survey remote beaches for pollution and investigate seabird nests for plastic during hatching season.

The expedition, working alongside the Scottish Seabird Centre, the Marine Conservation Society and others, will take investigate the extent of the plastics crisis in areas of stunning beauty and biodiversity. The sites earmarked for study include the Bass Rock, Gunna Sound, Mull, Rùm, Eigg, Skye, and the Shiant Isles in the Outer Hebrides.