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Do Sea Turtles Eat Plastic Marine Debris? Yes!

By The Editors

Floating marine debris accumulates in five main oceanic gyres. These debris accumulations consist mostly of plastics and are called great garbage patches. In recognition of the global threat posed by the great garbage patches, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recently granted them a symbolic State status, and officially recognized the Garbage Patch State.

Marine debris gathers in drift lines and convergence zones, which are also important feeding areas for many oceanic species, including sea turtles. Now, results from an analysis of global research data from the past 25 years show that green and leatherback turtles are eating more plastic than ever before.

The analysis was carried out by researchers from from the University of Queensland and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and published in the scientific journal Conservation Biology on August 5, 2013.

Green Sea Turtle


According to the authors of the study, “The likelihood of a green turtle ingesting debris nearly doubled from an approximate 30% likelihood in 1985 to nearly 50% in 2012”.


The authors conclude: “Our results show clearly that debris ingestion by sea turtles is a global phenomenon of increasing magnitude.

Study leader Qamar Schuyler says that man-made debris must be managed at a global level, from the manufactures through to the consumers – before debris reaches the ocean.

An estimated 80 per cent 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. Again, it is necessary to decrease our plastic footprint.


One Comment

  • Littlesusie

    One more global phenomenon or global threat. How many more are there? And then, is it surprising to find turtles eating plastic debris? Probably that’s all they can find to eat in some parts of the ocean these days!

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