MNN Galleries

15 animals making headlines

albatross on Midway atoll

Photo: USFWS Pacific/Flickr

6 of 17

Albatross

With plastic pollution in the world's oceans making daily headlines, the albatross population on Midway Atoll has become the heartbreaking symbol of this global problem. This collection of small islands in the North Pacific is home to nearly 2 million Laysan albatross, as well as thousands of black-footed albatross — and scientists say that every single one of them contains some quantity of plastic. The birds are mistakenly eating debris from the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, a swirling vortex of trash that's 90 percent plastic that has spawned numerous books and documentaries.

Researchers have found dead albatross at Midway whose body weight was mostly plastic from bottle caps, cigarette lighters and other waste. Of the 500,000 albatross chicks born here each year, 40 percent die — mostly as a result of being mistakenly fed plastic by their parents. In fact, albatross feed their chicks about 5 tons of plastic a year at Midway. Photographer Chris Jordan is working to promote awareness of this environmental tragedy and will release a documentary titled 'Midway' in 2012.