Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘plastic’

Documenting the presence of plastics in osprey nests

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018
The threats are real and these photos should alarm you!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

U.S. Coast Guard assists NJ Fish & Wildlife with recovering an entangled osprey on a channel marker in Cape May Harbor, Summer 2018. photo by Kathy Clark/ENSP

As I work to finalize data from this summer’s osprey surveys, I wanted to look back and highlight an important observation: more plastic is being found and recovered from active osprey nests. I guess it’s no surprise when you hear that “18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year from coastal regions.(more…)

2018 Osprey Outlook

Monday, July 30th, 2018
Insight Into Important (Bio)Indicators: Ospreys

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

CWF Osprey Banding Apprentice Northside Jim holds a young osprey, 13/K, after banding.

Mid-summer marks the nestling period of nesting ospreys, a coastal raptor, whose diet consists mainly of fish. As a state that’s heavily influenced by its location along the Atlantic Ocean, they play a critical role in our coastal ecosystem. Ospreys are important bioindicators of the health of our coastal waters, through the lens of their prey, where pollutants are biomagnified through the food chain. As we consume many of the same fish, they show the effects of these pollutants long before humans, so the health of their population has implications for our coastal waters and us! (more…)

How Plastic Pollution Impacts Wildlife – And What You Can Do!

Friday, August 19th, 2016
PLASTICS MAY THREATEN WILDLIFE FOR MANY YEARS

by Corrine Henn, Communication Coordinator

For those of us who call New Jersey home, we’ve all likely witnessed the impact human activities have on our environment and the species who thrive here. Although habitat loss, illegal poaching and invasive species can be equally devastating to an ecosystem, the presence of plastic pollution around our state is a threat that almost every individual can be found personally culpable.

A jellyfish & a plastic cup cover - which is which? It's easy to see how a sea turtle could get confused and accidentally swallow plastic. Photo by Mike Davenport.

A jellyfish & a plastic cup cover – which is which? It’s easy to see how a sea turtle could get confused and accidentally swallow plastic. Photo by Mike Davenport.

Although many forms of pollution impact our native species, the summer months at the Jersey Shore often result in a surge of plastic debris that are left behind or improperly disposed of. Plastic pollution impacts millions of wildlife species globally, and the diverse number of species in New Jersey are no exception.

The plastic pollution that accumulates in our waterways and elsewhere around New Jersey poses a serious threat to native species. Single-use plastic products like plastic bags, bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, straws, and even balloons are not only unsustainable, but particularly dangerous for the animals that may become entangled in them or accidentally ingest them.

Ospreys use trash as nesting material because (sadly) it is a plentiful resource that collects in the upper areas of the saltmarsh. It is a deadly component of their nests that easily entangles them. Do your part and pick up litter if you see it. © Ben Wurst

Ospreys use trash as nesting material because (sadly) it is a plentiful resource that collects in the upper areas of the saltmarsh. It is a deadly component of their nests that easily entangles them. Do your part and pick up litter if you see it. © Ben Wurst

A few years ago, CWF’s Habitat Program Manager Ben Wurst and his dedicated group of volunteers who monitor the osprey nests along the coast began to hold onto the trash and debris collected in and around the nests. While it may not be the most visually appealing educational resource, it made the growing problem of plastic pollution personal for Ben, in a way that words aren’t always able to convey.

Plastic bags, one of the most common single-use plastic products, were overwhelmingly prevalent in many of the nests. And osprey aren’t the only wildlife species facing this threat. Seals, terrapins, shorebirds, fish, whales, sharks and dolphins can also be impacted by plastic debris.

The presence of plastic in our daily lives is interminable and difficult to eliminate completely, but there are a number of things we can do to minimize the impact our habits may have on our wildlife!


Clean up after yourself:
Whether you’re spending the day at the beach, having a picnic by a lake, or tubing down a river, make sure you take any trash with you before leaving and recycle what you can.

Be mindful of your surroundings:
If you’re out and about and notice that someone left some trash behind, take a moment to throw it away.

Reduce your consumption:
A number of small changes from millions of people can make a big difference. For starters, invest in reusable shopping bags and water bottles. And cut down on the number of miscellaneous throw away plastics you use, including straws and plastic wrappers.

Donate:
Consider donating to CWF to support our conservation projects and ensure our biologists and our volunteers are able to continue surveying and aiding species in need.


LEARN MORE


 

Removing Harmful Microplastics from New Jersey’s Waterways and Wildlife

Thursday, January 28th, 2016
Nation Follows New Jersey’s Lead in Banning Microbeads

by Jake Levine, Intern

microbeads01

Have you ever used a skin-care product with those “exfoliating” beads? Have you ever used toothpaste that guarantees a brighter smile with its “abrasive” powers? The small plastic microbeads found in those products — and many other cosmetics — are polluting waterways and affecting wildlife. These small plastic microbeads are all less than five millimeters in size. Although they are tiny, they can have some colossal impacts on the waterways and the wildlife that inhabit these ecosystems.

 

What makes these microbeads so detrimental to the waterways and wildlife is its chemical composition. Commonly called plastic, polymers have been one of the most revolutionary creations in industry. They are strong, lightweight, and last a lifetime… literally. A key characteristic of polymers is long decomposition rate. Instead of naturally breaking down, they photo-degenerate, which means they absorb sunlight to break apart. When found in waterways, the rate that they break down is much longer, since the surrounding water keeps the microbeads cool and can redirect the sunlight. In animals that depend on waterways for food, these microbeads put up a fight against their digestive systems. These polymers do not break down in their digestive systems, which can pose a serious health risk to wildlife.

 

In a standard food chain, the smaller organisms make up the foundation. This foundation provides the energy and nutrients needed to fuel the rest of the food chain. With the introduction of microbeads into waterways, the foundation of the food chain now also contains microbeads. Since microbeads are made of polymers, they offer no nutritional value to any of the organisms that consume them. In addition to not being able to decompose or break down in wildlife, these small pellets can quickly cumulate inside animals, leading to fatal health issues.

 

So what is being done about the microbead issue? In 2015, legislators passed a bill that will prohibit the selling and distributing of these products that contain microbeads, and you can thank New Jersey for leading the charge! The “Microbead Free Waters Act of 2015” will ban the manufacturing, introduction, or delivery for introduction into our commerce of products that contain intentionally-added microbeads. The ban on the manufacturing will begin on July 1, 2017, while the ban on commerce will begin July 1, 2018.

 

The ban is one step, but I am anticipating it to lead to something bigger towards the recovery of the waterways and the environment.

 

Learn More:

 

Jake Levin is an intern for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

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