Our oceans are filled with plastic trash and it is increasing every day. This is a serious threat to marine life and we should be alarmed. On December 29, 2019, a green turtle was caught in a fisher’s net off the Buenos Aires coast. This turtle was then sent to an Argentina-based conservation group called Mundo Marino Foundation. Soon the experts found a disturbing amount of plastic trash in the turtle’s digestive tract.
Ignacio Peña, a veterinarian at the Foundation, said that foreign bodies could be spotted inside the green turtle through radiographic images. In such cases, medicines that increase the movement of the bowel are given to the turtle so that it poops out the foreign bodies. The turtle was fed seaweed and lettuce but it kept pooping plastic trash for about a month. According to the vets, it pooped out more than 13 grams (0.5 ounces) of nylon bags, netting, and a variety of toxic plastic refuse.
You would think that this is an isolated case, right? Mundo Marino Foundation has dealt with familiar cases and the frequency is at an all-time high. In 2019 alone they found two turtles belonging to the same species who had plastic trash in their body. One of the turtles was found dead with a large amount of plastic in the digestive tract, the other one was tended to. The rescued turtle then pooped a piece of plastic bag too.
Did you know that the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List has declared the green turtle, also known as Chelonia mydas, as one of the many endangered species in the world? The marine ecosystem has degraded because of coastal development and the dumping of toxic plastic trash. The old sea turtles do not eat other animals, they maintain a purely herbivorous diet. The younger ones, however, are either omnivorous or carnivorous. To the younglings, a plastic bag floating in the ocean resembles a jellyfish, a favorite food item. This is why the younger inexperienced turtles consume plastic, thinking it will be digested easily.
There is a 22 percent chance of a sea turtle dying from one tiny piece of plastic trash according to a study conducted in 2018. If the turtle consumes 14 pieces of plastic, chances of it dying rise to 50 percent. Yes, that is how dangerous it is for marine animals to consume toxic particles. According to Karina Álvarez, biologist and Conservation Manager at the Mundo Marino Foundation, the presence of these toxic materials in the bodies of the marine animals give the creatures a false feeling of being full. This feeling only weakens them in the long run. She further explains how the collected plastic trash inside the body of the green turtle generates a large amount of gas. This gas, in turn, hampers their ability to dive in order to find food and more favorable temperatures.
If the oceans are not cleaned, the lives of marine creatures will always be under threat. Say no to plastic and go green!
Images: Mundo Marino Foundation