Seven Species of Sea Turtles are at Risk of Plastic Pollution

First Posted: Oct 10, 2015 12:23 AM EDT

Sea turtles may have more risks than researchers once thought. Scientists have found that all seven species of marine turtles that they studied can ingest or become entangled in the discarded debris that currently litters the oceans.

Scientists have long known that discarded plastic poses a serious threat to the animals in the ocean. However, very little has been done in order to better understand the exact impact that plastics have on sea turtles.

Understanding how plastic affects marine turtles is more important than ever. Annual global plastic production has grown from 1.5 million tons in the last 65 years. As a result, plastic pollution is increasing, both on land and at sea.

"When turtles ingest plastic, they can suffer intestinal blockage that can result in malnutrition which can in turn lead to poor health, reduced growth rates, lower reproductive output and even death," said Brendan Godley, the lead researcher, in a news release. "It is sobering to thin that almost every piece of plastic that ever entered the sea is still there, breaking down and forming a vast soup of microplastics that could have frightening long-term repercussions."

Entanglement in plastic degrees can cause lacerations and increased drag for turtles. This could result in drowning or death by starvation. The fact that all seven species studied are impacted by this pollution is certainly something to keep in mind when dealing with the increase of plastic pollution in the world's ocean.

Currently, the researchers are calling for further work on this particular issue in order to investigate the sub-lethal effects of plastic ingestion and the associated contamination from chemicals relating to the plastic particles.

The findings are published in the journal ICES J. Mar. Sci.

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