By Alex Larson
A recent study by researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have just uncovered a very disturbing impact humans are having on sea turtle populations. In the study, published in Nature, scientist examined data from almost 1,000 dead sea turtles and discovered that the youngest appeared to be the most vulnerable to plastic pollution.
The research revealed that plastic was found in the stomach of over half of the baby post-hatchlings and while 25% ofturtles slightly older than the hatchlings were found with plastic inside their stomach. In comparison, around 15 percent of adult turtles were affected by plastic.
The number of pieces of plastic in the reptiles’ stomachs varied greatly – from one to over 300, The Independent reports. According to a leader of the study, Dr. Britta Denise Hardesty from CSIRO, and her team, turtles have a 50 percent probability of death after consuming just 14 plastic pieces.
Turtles were among the very first species observed consuming plastic waste as the early reports of bags being discovered in their stomachs go back to the 1980s. Since that time, the amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans has grown exponentially, and now nearly 9 tons of plastic enter the oceans every year.
Turtles are not the only animals to be impacted by plastic but understand how one species is so negatively impacted may help people wrap their heads around how severe of a problem our plastic addiction has become.
The research is most concerning as the findings revealed that the most vulnerable age group of turtles, hatchlings, are actually the most impacted by plastic pollution. Sea turtles are already threatened world-wide as pollution, bycatch, overfishing and coastal development has led many species to become endangered. Turtle species and hundreds of other marine creatures are now facing a threat like no other which requires serious and lasting action – a completely reinvented approach to plastic.
We are seeing the public and governments pay more attention to plastic waste but we still have a long way to go before we get to where we need to be. To get to that goal, we will need to continue to work towards reducing total plastic usage everyday by reaching out to local business and elected officials and forcing change