Sea turtles gobble plastic at record pace

U. QUEENSLAND (AUS) — Sea turtles are swallowing plastic at twice the rate they did 25 years ago, a new study reports.

Published in the journal Conservation Biology, an analysis of global research data for the past 25 years shows green and leatherback turtles are eating more plastic than ever before—and are eating plastic more than any other type of debris.

“Our research revealed that young ocean-going turtles were more likely to eat plastic than their older, coastal-dwelling relatives,” says Qamar Schuyler, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland.


Stranded turtles in areas with high concentrations of marine debris didn’t experience a correspondingly high probability of debris ingestion.

“Amazingly, turtles found adjacent to the heavily populated New York City area showed little or no evidence of debris ingestion, while all of the turtles found near an undeveloped area of southern Brazil had eaten debris,” Schuyler says.

“This means conducting coastal cleanups is not the single answer to the problem of debris ingestion for local sea turtle populations, although it is an important step in preventing marine debris input into the ocean.

“Results from this global analysis indicate oceanic leatherback turtles and green turtles are at the greatest risk of being killed or harmed from ingested marine debris. To reduce this risk, man-made debris must be managed at a global level, from the manufactures through to the consumers—before before debris reaches the ocean.”

An estimated 80 percent of debris comes from land-based sources, so it is critical to have effective waste management strategies and to engage with industry to create appropriate innovations and controls to assist in decreasing marine debris.

Source: University of Queensland