Study: Sea turtles can die from swallowing one piece of plastic
A handout picture released by Melbourne Zoo shows a turtle with a plastic bag near Karumba, Australia 19 May 2004. EPA-EFE/FILE/Department of the Environment and Heritage/Melbourne Zoo HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Yaniv Levy (L), Director of the Center and his team operate a resuscitation for a dying loggerhead sea turtle at the Sea Turtle Rescue Center of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority team in Mikhmoret, north of Netanya, Israel, 18 September 2017. EPA-EFE/FILE/ABIR SULTAN
A South African man picks up plastic with a coalition of environmental and community activists, led by United Nations Oceans Patron, Lewis Pugh and over 100 young surfers from Khayelitsha who have passed through the Waves For Change surf-therapy programmes during a beach clean up on Khayelitsha’s Monwabisi beach in Cape Town, South Africa 14 April 2018. It is estimated that there is now over 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans. Around 12.2 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean annually. This plastic is ingested by dozens of species of marine mammals and birds, and degrades vital habitats. This initiative aims at turning the tide on plastics and changing the way the world uses it. EPA-EFE/FILE/NIC BOTHMA
Sydney, Australia, Sep 14 (efe-epa).- A sea turtle has a 22 percent chance of dying if it eats just one piece of plastic, an Australian scientific institution revealed on Friday, quantifying for the first time the risk that plastic pollution poses to sea turtle populations.
Scientists found that there was a 50 percent likelihood that a sea turtle would die if it had 14 plastic items in its gut, according to a statement from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).
However, "even a single piece of plastic can kill a turtle," said Dr Kathy Townsend of the University of the Sunshine Coast, who participated in the analysis of nearly 1000 turtles found dead and washed up on beaches around Australia.
"Some of the turtles we studied had eaten only one piece of plastic, which was enough to kill it. In one case, the gut was punctured, and in the other, the soft plastic clogged the gut," Townsend said.
Prior to this study, it was unclear if the plastics in the oceans killed sea turtles or if they simply ingested them without major harm.
"We knew that turtles were consuming a lot of plastic, but we didn't know for certain whether that plastic actually caused the turtles' deaths, or whether the turtles just happened to have plastic in them when they died," Principal Research Scientist with CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Dr Chris Wilcox, lead-researcher from the CSIRO, said.
Sea turtles are among the first animals recorded to consume plastic debris, a phenomenon that occurs worldwide in all seven species of marine turtles.
Globally, it is estimated that 52 percent of sea turtles have eaten plastic.
"Millions of tonnes of plastic debris is entering our world's oceans on a yearly basis," said Wilcox, explaining that the model developed by the researchers will help humans understand the impact of plastic ingestion on sea turtle populations and other endangered marine species.
According to the United Nations, eight million tons of plastic waste ended up in the oceans each year.
The UN suggested that if this trend continues, there will likely be more plastics than fish in the oceans by 2050, as seabed pollution is already present in every region worldwide.