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article imageNew assessment of plastic pollution risk to sea turtles

By Tim Sandle     Sep 19, 2018 in Environment
Pollution of the oceans has been identified as a major risk in recent years. The impact is not only on the appearance of the seas, but the impact on sea creatures and the food chain. One marine animal impacted is the sea turtle.
Sea turtles have been identified as a sea creature significantly impacted by plastic pollution in the seas. The turtles, in many regions, have been shown to be ingesting large quantities of plastics which leads to health issues and potentially death.
To assess the impact of plastic on sea turtles, biologist have undertaken necropsies on dead turtles to assess the impact. These procedures have shown substantial concentrations of plastic in the deceased animals’ stomachs. Sea turtles are particularly vulnerable to plastic ingestion because of their inability to vomit.
The research studied juvenile green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) off the coast of Brazil. The adults usually inhabit shallow lagoons, feeding mostly on various species of seagrasses. The turtles are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and is protected from exploitation in most countries.
Central to the research is the quantity of plastic required to kill a sea turtle after the turtle has ingested the material. The information was gathered in relation to several turtles over several years.
According to lead researcher Dr. Britta Denise Hardesty, turtles are particularly vulnerable: “Because of their digestive tract, they don't regurgitate anything.”
She adds that if the plastic “Ends up in the wrong place, even one little thin, filmy piece of plastic can block that canal and mean that nothing can pass and ultimately the blockage can result in death.”
The review revealed that ingesting a single piece of plastic increases a sea turtle’s mortality risk by up to 22 percent. If a turtle ingests 14 pieces of plastic in total, a turtle’s mortality risk rises to 50 percent. If the number of ingested pieces of plastic rises to over 200, the prospect of death is near certain. For very young turtles, the risks are greater for fewer pieces of ingested plastic.
The research was undertaken at the Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The findings have been published in Scientific Reports. The research paper is titled “A quantitative analysis linking sea turtle mortality and plastic debris ingestion.”
More about Plastic pollution, Sea turtles, Marine, Pollution
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