The stomach of baby sea turtles can be filled with plastic debris.
Plastic pollution has become one of the most dangerous threats to marine life. More than 700 species, from blue whales to small molluscs, interact with plastic in the oceans. Plastics now account for 80% of all marine debris.
New research confirms that young sea turtles from the Indian and Pacific oceans often consume plastic.
Inside turtles’ bodies, plastic can cause entanglement and suffocation. Small juvenile turtles are believed to be most at risk because of their high levels of plastic contamination.
Plastic surgery is believed to be fatal due to rupture, obstruction, or perforation of the gastrointestinal tract. It also leads to malnutrition and chemical pollution.
In a new paper, the authors examined how plastic waste affects species such as:
- green turtle,
- flat turtle,
- loggerhead turtle,
- olive turtle,
- flat-footed turtle.
The largest number of swallowed pieces of plastic were found in green turtles: one animal in the Indian Ocean contained 343 pieces.
The share of plastic-eating turtles in the Pacific Ocean was much higher than in the Indian Ocean. Of the samples collected in the Pacific Ocean, green turtles contained plastic 83% of the time, followed by the loggerhead 86%, the flat 80% and the olive 29%. On the other hand, of the Indian Ocean specimens, flat-headed turtles contained the most plastic (28%), followed by loggerhead (21%) and olive (9%).
For olive turtles in the Pacific Ocean, plastic contained up to 0.9% of the total body weight, and for flat turtles in the Indian Ocean, up to 2%.