Plastic connectivity: disentangling the problem of plastic pollution for pelagic seabirds

19th December 2019

Plastic connectivity: disentangling the problem of plastic pollution for pelagic seabirds

This project will evaluate the risk of plastic encounter by small pelagic seabirds, using an extensive tracking dataset and models of marine plastic distribution. We will communicate results to relevant authorities, NGOs, corporates and the public, providing a robust, evidence-based assessment of the scale of the plastics problem for seabirds.

Project Aims

This project has two main aims. The first is to evaluate the risk of marine plastic encounter by different species of small, pelagic seabird species, and identify the areas where risk is greatest. This includes several specific objectives:

  • Identify the seabird species at higher risk from plastic pollution, by modelling the distribution of small pelagic seabirds (gadfly petrels and storm-petrels) and overlaying with areas of plastic accumulation in the oceans (high seas and Economic Exclusive Zones- EEZs);
  • Map the black spots in the ocean where the problem of plastic pollution is likely to be greatest for small pelagic seabirds;
  • Assess connectivity between EEZs and the high seas, with respect to the risk of plastic exposure for small pelagic seabird species;
  • Identify which range states hold seabird populations (colonies) that are at high risk of exposure to marine plastic.


The second aim is to use the results to inform relevant authorities, businesses, partner organisations and the general public about the scale of the problem of plastic pollution for seabirds, in order to support actions and policies to promote their conservation. Many seabird species rely on the high seas to forage (including large areas where plastics pollution is known to accumulate), so we will use the storm-petrel and gadfly petrels as flagship species highlighting the importance of conserving the high seas. The specific objectives under this aim are:

  • Identify the most relevant global and regional policy fora and advocacy opportunities to address marine plastic pollution;
  • Produce policy briefs to be used in communication and advocacy efforts to target relevant authorities and fora (e.g. Convention on Biological Diversity – CBD);
  • Prepare technical, targeted communications for key non-policy audiences, including the general public and particularly focused on multinational companies. This could include press releases, blogs, social media and/or infographics to extend the reach of these communications.

Project Overview

Type: Funded Projects
Theme: Valuing biodiversity and ecosystem services
Project code: CCI-05-19-013
Start date: January 1, 2020
Status: Active

CCI partners Involved