Publication Date

Spring 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Moss Landing Marine Laboratories


James T. Harvey


California, cephalopod, Fulmarus glacialis, ingestion, Northern Fulmar, plastic

Subject Areas



Marine plastic pollution affects seabirds that mistake it for prey or incidentally ingest it with prey. Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) and seabirds that feed at the water's surface ingest the most plastic. This can cause health issues, including satiety that possibly leads to inefficient foraging. The objectives of this study were to examine fulmar body condition, identify cephalopod diet and ingested plastic, predict foraging areas, and determine if prey number and size was correlated with ingested plastics in Pacific Northern Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis rodgersii). Cephalopod prey were identified, measured, and enumerated; plastic and marine debris were categorized, enumerated, and weighed from beach-cast Northern Fulmars wintering in Monterey Bay, California, during 2003 and 2007. Fulmars ate mostly Gonatid squids (Gonatus pyros, G. onyx, and G. californiensis) in similar size classes for both years. There was a significant negative correlation between pectoral muscle index and average size of cephalopod beaks per stomach, a significant increase in multiple plastic categories between years, and no significant correlation between the number and mass of plastic compared with the number and size of prey for either year. Although there was no correlation between plastic and prey, other issues with ingested plastics (contaminant accumulation, endocrine disruption, and micro plastics) should be further examined as plastic pollution increases in the world's oceans.