The Havelock North man who found an emaciated albatross with a 500ml plastic water bottle in its stomach on a Hawke's Bay beach has called for a change in public attitude to single-use plastics.
Graeme Ford said he spotted the distressed bird on a family fishing trip on Whirinaki Beach on January 1.
"We were out there fishing on a quiet afternoon at the beach and I noticed a bird in the water," he said.
"I found it strange right away because it was riding on the waves and was pretty close to the shore.
"It came in on a wave upside down, feet in the air and I knew just by looking at it that it was in a little bit of distress so that is when I went over and grabbed the bird."
After checking the bird for wing damage and other injuries, Ford made contact with the National Aquarium in Napier.
"We decided to take it to the aquarium to try and seek some help and advice from them," he said.
"They were great.
"They weren't convinced we had an albatross at first, but when we got there and they realised that we really did have an albatross they got in touch with DoC. They took it to a vet but unfortunately it didn't make it."
The Department of Conservation (DoC) said the juvenile toroa/southern royal albatross was taken to Wildlife Base, Palmerston North, where it died a few days later.
A 500ml plastic bottle, as well as the remains of a balloon, was found in the bird's stomach after an autopsy conducted by Massey University.
The results of the autopsy suggested starvation was a likely cause of death, with the plastic items obstructing the stomach and likely causing pain.
Ford, originally from Newcastle, United Kingdom, said he had never seen anything like that in the 13 years he has lived in New Zealand.
"It is crazy," he said. "It is even more crazy that this poor bird had a full bottle in its stomach.
"We'd been at the beach for five or 10 minutes and we were picking up plastic cups, bottles and all sorts.
"I thought I did enough just by recycling, but there is still so much out there.
"We need to make more of an effort to try and keep plastics at least away from the oceans at the very least."
Ford said: "Whether we need to have more bins out and about on the coastline to put things in – I don't know. But something has to change."
Minister of Conservation and Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage said the death of the albatross was "tragic."
"It highlights the importance of reducing the amount of plastic in nature," she said. "We've already banned single use plastic shopping bags and working on other unnecessary plastics.
"We need to reduce plastic use, make sure those we use are collected and reused or reprocessed to keep them out of streams and oceans."
Sage said a proposed National Plan of Action for Seabirds to better protect them was currently open for public comment.
The body of the toroa will be returned to Ngāti Tangoio, the local iwi near Whirinaki.
Greenpeace campaigner Holly Dove said the plastic bag ban in NZ was the tip of the iceberg.
"Now we need a comprehensive strategy to eliminate all pointless single-use plastic - especially plastic bottles."