Sea turtles can live for more than 80 years, but just one piece of plastic can kill them
The ever-increasing use of plastic and the unsustainability it carries with it is alarming. Every day, tonnes of plastic waste ends up in landfills and in the oceans – the magnitude at which plastic pollution has magnified is almost impossible to rid the planet of this toxic burden.
According to the UN, eight million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the oceans each year and the numbers have hardly shown any improvement.
While it harms both our health and the environment, it has a scathing effect on marine organisms. As per studies rolled out by the Australian scientific institution recently, it was found that a tiny piece of plastic increases the risk of death of a sea turtle by 22 per cent, quantifying for the first time the risk that plastic pollution poses to sea turtle populations. It was unclear earlier if the plastics in the oceans killed sea turtles or if they simply ingested them without major harm.
According to the researchers at CSIRO, more than half of the world’s sea turtles are thought to have plastic in their guts as millions of tonnes of rubbish continue to be dumped into oceans each year.
Scientists found that there was a 50 per cent likelihood that a sea turtle would die if it ingested 14 plastic items in its gut, according to a statement from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO). However Kathy Townsend of the University of the Sunshine Coast, said “even a single piece of plastic can kill a turtle”. A single piece of plastic can puncture or clog the gut of a sea turtle when it consumes it.
Young sea turtles are the most vulnerable, the study found, because they drift with currents where the floating debris also accumulate and also because unlike the adults, they are less choosy about what they eat.
Worldwide, six of the seven species of sea turtles are considered threatened, although many populations are recovering.