How badly plastic has affected marine life can be estimated from the fact that 80 percent of marine waste is only plastic, which is floating over the water and resides deep down in the seas. And according to a new study from Frontiers in Marine Science, baby marine turtles in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean have very high chances of plastic ingestion.
More than 80% of turtles off the Queensland coast were found to have plastic in their stomach. Due to this, malnutrition, chemical contamination, death due to plastic laceration, and many other harmful consequences happen later.
The team during the study came across 343 plastic pieces inside one turtle off the coast of Western Australia. Mark Hamann of James Cook University, Queensland said that as per estimation around 700 marine species, from blue whales to small species have had interaction with the plastic.
The study says,
“Small juvenile turtles which also includes post-hatchling and oceanic juveniles are at higher risk, because of feeding preferences and overlapping with areas of high plastic abundance.”
The study includes the examination of the stomach contents of five different species of marine turtles. Turtles prefer an open ocean for growth, but these areas are fastly turning into the dumping sites of plastic.
Marine turtles of the Pacific ocean are found to have more plastic in their stomach than those in Indian. 86% of loggerhead turtles of the Pacific ocean had ingested plastic and on the other side, 80% of flatback and green marine turtles had plastic in the stomach, where plastic seems to come from different areas.
The study says,
“Post-hatchling turtles have adapted to enter the oceanic zone or shallow coastal waters where they rely on different organisms for feeding purposes. Such habitats are very much ideal for their growth, but the rapid introduction of plastic waste among their natural food items has made the environments risky and tough for them to survive.”
The study’s lead author, Emily Duncan of the University of Exeter further stated,
“Plastic in the stomach of Pacific turtles mostly contained hard fragments, which could come from a different range of products used by humans. Despite this, the plastic of the Indian Ocean contains mostly fibers which probably come from fishing ropes or nets”.
Duncan advised humans to take immediate action to prevent plastic pollution and said that further stages of this research will investigate the effect of plastic ingestion on the health and survival of marine turtles.