Grey seal colony hotspots in Norfolk threatened by microplastics
An investigation on Norfolk beaches found seal pups lying next to potentially toxic microplastics known as nurdles.
More than 3,000 seal pups were born at Blakeney National Nature Reserve this winter and at nearby Horsey a record 2,000 pups were born.
But a field trip last month by staff from conservation organisation, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) revealed hundreds of nurdles littering beaches near some of the pups’ favourite spots.
Blakeney and the Horsey Dunes are listed as Special Areas of Conservation under the European Habitats Directive but this protected status has failed to keep them safe from plastic pollution.
Nurdles are tiny plastic pellets that are produced and melted together by the plastics industry to create new plastic products. Spilt and discarded by companies in their billions, about 53 billion nurdles end up in the oceans every year.
Seals are known to ingest microplastics, most likely by eating prey that has itself consumed microplastics. Scientific studies also suggest that nurdles may transport chemical contaminants into the bodies of marine animals that eat them.
Dilyana Mihaylova, marine plastics projects manager at Fauna & Flora International, said: “All companies that make, use and transport nurdles must take action to stop these microplastics polluting Britain’s beaches and damaging critical habitats for our iconic seal colonies. The plastics industry needs to implement robust measures across its entire supply chain to stop nurdle pollution.”
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