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World Migratory Bird Day 2019 - Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution

Bonn, 6 March 2019 – Every year, World Migratory Bird Day presents an annual theme aiming to raise awareness of issues affecting migratory birds and to inspire people and organizations around the world to take measures for their conservation. This year’s theme − “Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution!” − will put the spotlight on the negative impact of plastic pollution on migratory birds and their habitats.

With an annual production of more than 300m tons, plastic is one of the most widely used materials in the world. What often escapes one’s attention is that the plastic is used for its main purpose for only a moment compared with its lifecycle of 20 to 500 years. Lightweight and designed to last, the discarded pieces are easily transported into ecosystems through the forces of nature causing serious threats to migratory species around the world.

Sadly, having wings does not help birds escape the threat of plastic. Birds with stomachs full of plastic entangled and smothered by plastic rings and nets are all too real consequences of the toll that plastic takes on wildlife.

 “The growing scourge of plastic pollution across our planet is affecting waterbirds in many ways. When ingested, it can lead to poisoning and even starvation. Plastic floating in the oceans, along rivers or stranded along our shorelines and in wetlands can cause injuries, impede mobility and cause birds to drown”, said Jacques Trouvilliez, Executive Secretary of AEWA.  “Waterbirds are facing so many threats, everyone can do something to tackle this one."

The number of seabirds dying from the effects of plastic every year is currently 1 million and growing. Existing research pinpoints the urgency of the matter: not only do 90 per cent of seabirds have plastic in their guts, but this proportion will reach 99 per cent by 2050.

“The many adverse effects of plastic on marine species is a widely recognized issue on the global agenda. Yet little is known about the fact that migratory birds are also victims of plastic pollution. Cases of ingestion and entanglement lead to suffering and mortality. World Migratory Bird Day 2019 will help draw the world’s attention to this serious issue”, said Marco Barbieri, CMS Officer in Charge and Scientific Adviser at CMS.

The international community needs to take urgent action to mitigate unnecessary injuries and mortality of migratory birds due to plastic pollution. Together we can help to curb the giant tide of plastic. World Migratory Bird Day 2019 is a unique chance to unite efforts in addressing this rapidly growing environmental problem.

Over 750 events − birdwatching hikes, festivals, movie screenings, talks and presentations − were organized in close to 80 countries across the globe to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day in 2018, including the first events registered from Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada and Togo. This year, World Migratory Bird Day is hoping for an even greater success in terms of number of events and actions being taken by dedicated people around the world to spread the word to address the urgent threat of plastic pollution. Local teams in a number of countries around the world, for example, are organizing beach cleaning events to clear plastic from the shorelines as their World Migratory Bird Day contribution. We are calling for your support in sharing this important environmental message for a better future for birds and people on our interconnected planet.

The impact of plastic pollution has been addressed by CMS Resolution 12.20 on the management of marine debris adopted at CMS COP 12 in Manila in October 2017. The resolution aims at securing a significant reduction of marine pollution and more sustainable management of marine and coastal ecosystems.

The adverse effect of plastic on seabirds was also a central point of discussion at AEWA MOP7 in Durban in December 2018. The Plastics and AEWA Waterbirds: Incidents and Impacts report presented at the meeting is an extensive overview of latest developments and trends on the issue as it relates to waterbirds covered by the international treaty.