Plastic Pollution Causing Sea Turtles To Die

Posted on March 14th 2019 Sea Turtles Take A Shorter Route Around The Atlantic

Up until a short while ago, it was not obvious whether oceanplastic pollution directly contributed towards the early death of turtles. Thathas all changed and it has now been confirmed that a sea turtle that hasconsumed just a single piece of plastic has more than a 20 per cent chance ofdying according to the latest research from CSIRO and Atmosphere. Theresearchers analysed almost 1,000 turtles that had washed ashore dead aroundthe beaches of Australian and found that the more plastic a turtle consumes,the greater the probability that the turtle will die as a result of it.

How much plastic is too much?

Dr Chris Wilcox Principal Research Scientist with CSIRO Oceansand Atmosphere says it is well known that turtles were ingesting a lot ofplastic but it was not known with any certainty whether it was the plastic thatwas actually causing the deaths of turtles, or whether the dead turtles simplyhappened to have plastic within them at the time of death. So the question thatneeded to be answered was how much plastic is too much plastic for sea turtles?

Turtles consuming plastic all over the world

According to the research results, once a turtle has 14 items ofplastic in its stomach, there was a 50 per cent probability that plastic wouldcause death. That does not mean that turtles that had consumed less than 14pieces of plastic would remain alive. Sea turtles were amongst the firstspecies to be recorded to be consuming plastic debris. This is a phenomenonthat occurs in every part of the globe and amongst all seven species of marineturtles.

Developing a viable scalable solution

It is estimated that globally, more than half of all sea turtleshave consume plastics. By working out the impact this trend has on turtlemortality brings us closer to understanding the true impact of plasticpollution on sea turtle populations. Dr Wilcox says every year; millions oftonnes of plastic debris is entering the world’s oceans. The model his researchteam has developed can be adapted in order to understand the impact of plasticconsumption, not just on individual animals but on the entire populations ofother endangered marine species as well. The better the issue is understood,the better we will be to be able to address the problem and develop a viablesolution that can be scaled.

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