nesting in plastic

The remote, high-seas island Helgoland is the only habitat for northern gannets in Germany. Since 1991, it has been a refuge for up to 8,000 breeding pairs, which return to the cliffs every year to raise a single chick. However, marine plastic pollution has been an increasing problem. Confusing the plastic at sea for algae, the birds integrate ribbons from fishing nets into their nests. This results in approximately 14 birds perishing on the cliffs daily due to entan- glement and strangulation. It is estimated that today 98% of gannet nests contain plastic waste. This story depicts the contrast between the beauty and tragedy of these seabirds, while investigating scientific research and potential solutions for the critical marine plastic problem.

The first time I witnessed the problem of plastic pollution at a local level was in January 2020. As a nature photographer and filmmaker, I had strived to visit the remote German island Heligoland for many years. Capturing the grey and common seal colonies on camera was a long-term goal. However, what I discovered during my trip was vastly different than what I had initially expected.

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