Every Species of Sea Turtle is Now Eating Plastic

Scientists have already raised concerns that it takes just a single piece of plastic to kill a sea turtle, but a troubling new study is shedding light on just how widespread the problem is for this beloved species.

For the study, which was just published in the journal Global Change Biology, researchers from the University of Exeter, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and Greenpeace Research Laboratories, examined the guts of 102 sea turtles representing all seven species who had died in the Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean.

Worryingly, they found synthetic particles in all of them, with the most common source being fibers that can come from things like tires, clothing, cigarette filters and fishing gear, including ropes and nets, although microbeads found in items like personal care products were also present.

According to researchers, in all more than 800 synthetic particles were found in all of the turtles they studied, and that may be a low estimate of the total amount of plastic because they only tested part of each one’s gut, so the “total number of synthetic particles within the whole gut is likely to be the order of 20 times higher.”

“While this study has been successful, it does not feel like a success to have found microplastic in the gut of every single turtle we have investigated,” said Dr. Penelope Lindeque, of Plymouth Marine Laboratory. “From our work over the years we have found microplastic in nearly all the species of marine animals we have looked at; from tiny zooplankton at the base of the marine food web to fish larvae, dolphins and now turtles. This study provides more evidence that we all need to help reduce the amount of plastic waste released to our seas and maintain clean, healthy and productive oceans for future generations.”

While researchers noted that the particles they found in sea turtles could likely easily pass through their digestive systems, tiny pieces of plastic can also cause internal damage and block nutrient absorption, while the chemicals in microplastics can accumulate and negatively impact growth, development and reproduction in marine life.

Hopefully their work will encourage more people to reduce their consumption and work towards improving waste management and recycling programs to keep plastic from finding its way back into the environment, and also to push companies to take some responsibility for the products they’re producing.

“This is more proof that we urgently need to reduce plastic production worldwide. From whales that have washed ashore with their stomachs filled with plastic to microplastics found in over 100 turtles from three oceans, marine life is suffering because companies are addicted to single-use plastics and not doing enough to tackle the problem.

How many more studies like this do we need for corporations to take strong action to curb the production of throwaway plastic which is predicted to quadruple by 2050? This global environmental crisis must be tackled at the source for the sake of marine life, the world’s oceans, our health, and our communities,” said Graham Forbes, Greenpeace’s Global Plastic Project Leader.

Photo credit: Getty Images

59 comments

Greta L
Past Member 5 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J6 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J6 months ago

thanks for sharing

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RosemaryRannes HusbandHos
Rosemary R7 months ago

How much do we human beings really care? Do we really care enough to do everything possible to remove plastics in any and every form from our marketplace?Will manufacturers respond by using other materials for their products? How far away from being a plastic world are we? So many questions, but the fact is we have run out of time, and our Relations are suffering and dying!

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Daniel v
Daniel v7 months ago

all comes down to wall street .just a few decades ago .everything was in glass bottle .milk, soda, cream ,bear and much more ,cases with empty bottle were exchanged for full ones, empty ones went back to brewery and so fort .cleansed and refilled.so now investors save a few pennies and just destroy the world. Some kind of legacy the leave for future humans discovering how ignorant and arrogant they were .everybody used the permanent shopping bags also .

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federico b

Grazie della condivisione....è terribile tutto questo!!

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foteini c
FOTINI HORBOU7 months ago

Brian F, factories, Industries and businessmen are the biggest problem. Even if a big amount of household stop buying these stuff, big ones will continue. We need to pass laws in every country, worldwide as soon as possible!!!

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Brian F
Brian F7 months ago

Until all single use plastics such as plastic bags, bottles, straws, and take out containers, are banned, this problem will continue. We need to force people to use reusable bags, bottles, and take out containers.

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