Plastic Pollution: Sea Turtles Suffer
A recent study of sea turtles conducted by the UK’s University of Exeter and the Plymouth Marine Laboratory has found that all of the 102 creatures examined had varying amounts of plastic pollution in their gut. In all, over 800 pieces were discovered, ranging from plastic fibres to micro-beads. We should all be shocked – but probably aren’t.
It’s not clear how the ingestion occurs but is probably the result of the turtles consuming already contaminated animal species and plants. The highest concentration of plastic pollution was found in the Mediterranean, but the Atlantic and Pacific were badly affected too.
Thankfully, most of the pieces are less than 5mm in length and can pass through the gut in the usual way without causing harm, though more research is being done to ascertain if there are any long term effects on a cellular and sub-cellular level. But what is worrying is that most turtle species are already under threat to varying degrees. Problems brought about by hunting as well as climate change that is causing an increase in female populations with a corresponding decrease in male are all contributing to population decline.
One wonders what it will take for governments and companies to act in order to reduce plastics production. Hopefully not a series of species extinctions.
• Duncan, E. M., Broderick, A. C., Fuller, W. J., Galloway, T. S., Godfrey, M. H., Hamann, M., … & Santillo, D. (2018). Microplastic ingestion ubiquitous in marine turtles. Global Change Biology. doi:10.1111/gcb.14519
• Patricio, A. R., Varela, M. R., Barbosa, C., Broderick, A. C., Catry, P., Hawkes, L. A., Regalla, A., & Godley, B. J. (2018). Climate change resilience of a globally important sea turtle nesting population. Global Change Biology. doi:10.1111/gcb.14520