Long, Slow Death of a Sea Turtle
317 pieces. That’s how much plastic clogged the digestive system of the giant sea turtle found dead on a beach in New South Wales. The animal had quietly and slowly starved. Food could no longer find its way past the bits of fishing line, plastic bags, small lids, plastic tape, and lollipop sticks the turtle had mistaken for food.
This was a young animal so the plastic was packed into a body that had grown to only 15 inches (40 centimeters). Australian Seabird Rescue volunteers who performed the necropsy called their findings the worst example of plastic ingestion they had seen in 15 years.
Plastic rubbish in 30% of dead turtles
In an interview with ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), Townsend describes the turtles’ lingering deaths. As bits of plastic get stuck in their digestive systems, the debris mixes with what organic material they can still take in. The toxic mix decomposes, creating gas. The now-buoyant turtles are unable to dive. They can’t feed or avoid boats. “So it also means that they basically become very dehydrated, and they starve to death, and this can last for months.”
In the ABC footage seen at this link, seabird rescue spokeswoman Rochelle Ferris calls on all levels of government to invest more money in “reducing the amount of marine debris that’s coming from our urban environments into the ocean. If we do control this marine debris issue, I’ll be out of work, but I’d like to be doing something that doesn’t break my heart every day.”
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Photo by rogerimp