Nightly News   |  December 10, 2012

Troubling signs in paradise

On Kamilo Beach on Hawaii’s Big Island, disturbing research demonstrates plastic debris is being ingested by wildlife at an alarming rate. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>>> wave of debris coming ashore in the u.s. after the tsunami in japan almost two years ago now. last month we showed you what it's doing to one of the most spectacular coastlines in this country, creating the world's dirtiest beach in the big island in hawaii. tonight from the same spot the impact it's having on wildlife and perhaps next on our food supply including sad pictures of what the floatable plastics are doing to the animal population. our report tonight from hawaii.

>> reporter: on the hawaiian islands where the majestic albatross breed, there's danger. the long-billed bird feeds on squid, fish and krill. much of what it eats it plastic. this dead albatross carrying a full lead of debris. at the oceanic institute they say plastic crash lines the stomach of every bird.

>> all of these pieces were inside of two albatrosses. their stomachs are the way to understand how material is out there and how other predators may be also collecting this material.

>> reporter: on the big island debris isn't hard to find. currents wash waste and tsunami debris onto the same sands shared by the monk seal , an endangered species . with the largest wave was of tsunami debris up expected to wash ashore in the next several months, researchers say what's out in the open waters right now will only compound already a serious problem. mounds of trash like fishing net are collecting where wildlife live and feed. this biologist says microplastic are in fish commonly eaten by tuna and salmon.

>> people should be concerned because it's in the oceanic food web , and this is a food web that sustains us.

>> reporter: oceanographer henry carson is researching the problem at the university of hawaii .

>> some of the scariest impacts are down as plastic break down in smaller pieces. we find that filter feeders that we eat are filtering the tiniey est plastic particles.

>> reporter: the fda says they consume particles of plastic but says there's no evidence this resulted in any safety issue concerning seafood on the market. but others worry these are troubling signs in paradise. the first wave of what is still to come. miguelal ma gar,