Marine Conservation & Sustainable Management

Plastics are a sea turtle’s not so tasty treat

Well it seems its the season for posting about plastic pollution in our oceans.  Following on from my recent posts on pelagic fish consuming plastics and the ‘plastisphere‘ I bring you yet another impact of plastic pollution…this time on sea turtles.

Tommaso Campani from the University of Siena, Italy and colleagues have been busy looking at deceased  loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta ) stranded along the Tuscany coasts.  What they found was disturbing, but perhaps not unsurprising.  71% of the turtles  were found to have a total of 483  items of debris in their intestine, stomach, or oesophagus.  441 of those items were plastic, and primarily sheet-like plastic (think plastic bags).  Looking through the eyes of a loggerhead turtle, its perhaps easy to suggest that the high level of sheet-like plastic is likely to arise from the similarity of the plastic with jellyfish – a major prey item of the species.  Even the colour of plastic didn’t seem to deter these unfussy critters consuming the plastic.

Although the sample size was small (just 31 turtles), and ingestion of debris – particularly plastic – cannot be directly linked to their death, it does raise some questions about the disposal of litter…or rather lack thereof.

The paper has been published in the journal  ‘Marine Pollution Bulletin’.  Unfortunately it is not open access so you’ll need journal access (or to pay for access) to read it.

Image: Wondering what it is?  Yup… a plastic bag.  Credit Patrick Kelley Worldwide Photographer/Marine Photobank

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