HS Environment Scientists find out the amount of plastic debris in the Gulf of Finland, the findings tell the harsh language about the prevalence of marine debris

The littering of the outer archipelago speaks harshly about the prevalence of marine litter. A dead chick tangled in a fishing net was also found in the cormorant sanctuary in front of Kotka.

Plastic cord, fishing line, net line, power cord, plastic strings, fishing net weight, net whisk, snare rod and dead chick tangled in the net.

In addition to branches and reeds, cormorants have collected various debris found in various environments. It can be found a lot in the nesting hut in the eastern Gulf of Finland off Kotka, although the autumn wind may have transported the biggest loose debris elsewhere.

“The amount of litter in bird nests reflects the littering of the marine environment in general and indicates that birds encounter a lot of litter in their habitat,” says the researcher who surveyed the plastic litter in the nests. Pinja Näkki From the Finnish Environment Institute (Syke).

In the Gulf of Finland, Syke researchers are investigating the amount and variety of plastic debris in seabird nests and the regional extent of the phenomenon.

In addition to Kotka, field mapping was carried out in September in the cormorant communities off Porvoo, Kirkkonummi and Espoo.

Pinja Näkki (left), Seppo Knuuttila and Anni Jylhä-Vuorio count the amount of plastic debris accumulated in cormorant nests. Even larger man-made structures have drifted into the islet.

Outer archipelago littering speaks harshly about the prevalence of marine litter and the spread of plastic throughout the environment. There is plenty of plastic even in bird nests.

The consequences of littering are also present in Kotka. When the net cloth in the nest is removed, a tightly entangled, dead cormorant pup appears.

A person in charge of the North Atlantic seabird communities has been reported, but in this study, the case is the first.

“Here’s possible evidence that the chicks get entangled in the pieces of the net and can die in it,” says Syke, a specialist researcher who initiated the study. Seppo Knuuttila.

Plastic birds can cause many kinds of harm to seabirds: they can not only get caught in plastic but also swallow plastic pieces.

Cormorants although they do not easily eat plastic, as they primarily prey on live fish. However, plastic can end up in birds ’bodies indirectly with food.

“The cormorant nests throughout the Baltic Sea and along the Finnish coast. The amount and type of debris found in the nests could serve as an indicator of how much plastic debris is found in the marine environment in different parts of the Baltic Sea in general,” Knuuttila says.

In Finland, the matter has not been systematically studied before. According to Knuuttila, international studies have found that several seabirds collect plastic in their nests: cormorants and cormorants, as well as sea urchins, gray gulls and gulls, even puffins.

Anni Jylhä-Vuorio and Pinja Näkki wonder about a cormorant boy tangled in a net among the branches in the nest.

Cormorants are already exposed to litter as chicks as the birds collect plastic in their nests. Pictured is a newly hatched cormorant in Hamina in June 2018.

Kotkan in front of the islet there are about 175 nests. There are also a few dead birds, chicks and adults, lying on the ground among their nests.

Pinja Näkki and her thesis on the project at the University of Helsinki Anni Jylhä-Vuorio draw a string of strings through the rocky islet to select a representative sample from the nests.

The amount of debris is counted and the quality of the plastics is examined from 50 randomly selected nests. Finally, the debris is collected from the entire island for analysis.

“Most of it is plastic from fishing but also some food plastic and rubbish. Instead, this is the first place where there is no input wire, ”Pinja Näkki sums up.

Input thread has been found in the cormorant islets of Porvoo, Kirkkonummi and Espoo, above all where there are construction sites nearby. In the Helsinki metropolitan area, a quarry dumped into the sea from a western metro site was for a long time the region’s primary source of plastic debris in the marine environment.

According to Näkki, most of the rubbish found in Porvoo as well as in Kotka was clearly of fishing origin. In Espoo and Kirkkonummi, on the other hand, there was more consumer waste and various plastic chips in the nests.

“In Kirkkonummi, a thick rope from a ship was found on the island, the braid of which had broken in many places. There were plastic reasons for the braid in many nests, which means that one big rubbish washed into the island has served as a source of nest building material for several individuals, ”says Näkki.

Most rubbish was found in Kirkkonummi, where as many as 92 percent of nests had plastic. The share was 62 per cent in Kotka, 44 per cent in Espoo and 34 per cent in Porvoo.

“In Kirkkonummi, the amount of rubbish per nest was also higher than elsewhere. The colony or cormorant community is the oldest of these, founded in 2005. When the birds use the same nests from year to year, they have had time to accumulate a lot of rubbish, ”says Näkki.

Cormorants collect plastic debris they find in their vicinity from their nests.

Both dead chicks and adult birds were found in the nesting area.

Littering is one of the world’s environmental threats to the seas.

Globally, the main causes of land-based marine litter are poorly functioning waste management, intentional littering, and illegal dumping of litter.

Some of the debris that ends up in the sea sinks into the sea, some remains floating. Sea litter travels long distances, and its routes are not yet well known.

Read more: There is almost more plastic in the Sea than fish, and some of it ends up in food – HS graphics tell what it means to animals and humans

Littering is also a big problem in Finland’s marine environment, both on the shores and sunken.

Most of the rubbish that ends up in the sea is plastic: identifiable products or fragments and rags. They come from consumption, fishing, construction and industry. The most common rubbish on Finnish beaches is cigarette butts.

In addition to the visible debris, there are small plastic hits in the ocean, micro-plastic. It comes from large plastic, for example, by grinding and splitting.

In Finland, the single most significant identified source of emissions from microplastics is road transport. Hippos detached from car tires through wear end up in the sea through rainwater, snowfall, surface runoff, and air.

Read more: Road transport is the largest source of microplastics in Finnish sea areas: the wear of car tires generates up to 10,000 tonnes of emissions per year

Microplastic ends up in nature and does not leave it but enters the food chain. The human health effects of microplastics are not yet known.

In contrast, micro-plastics have been found in fish in the Baltic Sea, including herring, stone limbs, cod and shellfish.

Syken Pinja Näkki has studied the risks of microscopic small plastic debris to the seabed community.

Näkki argued in September the fate and effects of microplastics on the seabed. In aquarium experiments, he exposed the mussels to microplastic and investigated how much the mussels ate the plastic if it was located on the surface of the sediment or in deeper layers.

“As many as 25 percent of the mussels ate microfiber from the surface of the sediment,” Näkki says.

Microplastic powdered from car tires was found to cause stress and cell organ damage to mussels.

Näkki finds the results worrying, although they cannot yet be generalized more widely at the population level or more broadly at the ecosystem level.

“The amount of microplastics in the seas is growing, and the seabed will continue to be a concentration of microplastics. Therefore, it is important to find out more about its effects in these habitats, ”says Näkki.

Cormorants visible debris is examined at the nesting site and is found.

“Surprisingly, there is a lot of rubbish here, especially when it comes to a small and windless wooded island, not a camping site,” Näkki sums up.

Two large man-made waste bags accumulate in nests and rocks for recovery. The second sack is almost completely filled with a large tarpaulin stuck in a rock hole.

Pinja Näkki and Anni Jylhä-Vuorio are looking forward to being able to analyze the catch collected from the research sites in more detail.

“By analyzing the quality and origin of plastics, we are able to produce information that will certainly be useful in the future,” says Näkki.

The islet off Kotka has a total of about 175 cormorant nests.

Read more: There is almost more plastic in the Sea than fish, and some of it ends up in food – HS graphics tell what it means to animals and humans

Read more: Helsinki has the dirtiest beaches in the Gulf of Finland – “Funny guides citizens to recycle food packaging if plastic is dumped into the sea at the same time”

Read more: Road transport is the largest source of microplastics in Finnish sea areas: the wear of car tires generates up to 10,000 tonnes of emissions per year

Read more: The EU intends to restrict the use of microplastics in cosmetics, detergents and fertilizers

Read more: Investigator: The slandered fish robbery and the bullying of the cottages is not worth killing

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