Sea turtles swim throughout the open ocean, grazing on algae and other foods. Some sea turtles, such as the leatherback sea turtle, like to snack on jellyfish, and have thick skin to protect their mouths from jellyfish stingers.
However, pieces of plastic floating in the ocean can resemble jellyfish, especially from the perspective of a hungry sea turtle. Sea turtles can accidentally consume plastic debris, causing health problems and even death.
Sea turtles can become entangled in other marine debris, like plastic six pack rings and fishing lines, preventing them from being able to swim or eat. Pollution on beaches can even trap sea turtle hatchlings, stopping them in their tracks on their way to the sea.
Plastic pollution most often comes from inland sources and is carried by rivers to the sea, where currents carry them out to remote areas of the ocean. Other wildlife are affected by ocean pollution as well, from birds to whales, which also accidentally consume plastic. Even marine invertebrates, the main food source for many other forms of marine wildlife, are harmed by consuming marine debris, affecting the whole marine ecosystem.
Plastic pollution isn’t just bad news for wildlife and oceans; it can also harm people! Plastics that are consumed by the seafood people eat can cause an array of health problems, and pollution caused by discarded fishing nets that entangle sea turtles can even have a negative impact on the economy. Helping prevent plastic pollution not only helps wildlife but also can help you and your family.
Ocean trash originates from inland areas near you, which means that it can also be reduced at the source. Here is what you can do to help reduce ocean plastic pollution and help the sea turtles:
- try to avoid using plastic straws, which can end up in the ocean and can be responsible for causing harm to wildlife;
- bring re-useable bags with you to grocery stores to avoid using plastic bags, which can contribute to marine debris;
- and find out other tips here.
- Halden, Rolf U. “Plastics and Health Risks.” Annual Review of Public Health31 (2010): 179-194.
- Marine Debris Program. 2017. “What We Know About Entanglement and Ingestion.” NOAA. Accessed April 2. 2018. https://marinedebris.noaa.gov/what-we-know-about-entanglement-and-ingestion
- NOAA Fisheries. 2018. “Threats to Sea Turtles.” NOAA. Accessed April 2. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/threats.html
- World Wildlife Fund. 2017. “Marine Turtles.” Accessed April 2. 2018. http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/marine_turtles/
- Wright, Stephanie L., Richard C. Thompson, and Tamara S. Galloway. “The Physical Impacts of Microplastics on Marine Organisms: a Review.” Environmental Pollution178 (2013): 483-492.