Plastic litter in the marine environment is a major global issue. Discarded plastic shotgun ammunition shells and discharged wads are an unwelcome addition and feature among the top ten litter items found on reference beaches in Denmark. To understand this problem, its scale and origins, collections were made by volunteers along Danish coastal shorelines. In all 3669 plastic ammunition items were collected at 68 sites along 44.6 km of shoreline. The collected items were scored for characteristic variables such as gauge and length, shot type, and the legibility of text, the erosion, and the presence of metallic components. Scores for characteristics were related to the site, area, and season and possible influences discussed. The prevalence of collected plastic shotgun litter ranges from zero to 41 items per 100 m with an average of 3.7 items per 100 m. Most ammunition litter on Danish coasts originates from hunting on Danish coastal waterbodies, but a small amount may come from further afield. North Sea coasts are the most distinctive suggesting the possible contribution of long distance drift as well as the likelihood that such litter can persist in marine habitats for decades. The pathway from initial discard to eventual wash-up and collection depends on the physical properties of plastic components, marine tides and currents, coastal topography and shoreline vegetation. Judging from the disintegration of the cartridge and the wear and decomposition of components, we conclude that there is a substantial supply of polluting plastic ammunition materials that has and will accumulate. These plastic items pose a hazard to marine ecosystems and wash up on coasts for many years to come. We recommend that responsible managers, hunters and ammunition manufacturers will take action now to reduce the problem and, thereby, protect ecosystems, wildlife and the sustainability of hunting.
Keywords: Ammunition; Hunting; Litter; Marine; Plastic; Sustainability.
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