BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — Marine turtles, like seabirds, are ingesting a significant amount of plastic debris, a new research report has found.
Australian scientist Qamar Schuyler has just completed a report that found 52 percent of marine turtles worldwide are likely to have eaten plastic debris.
Schuyler is a research fellow at the University of Queensland's Moreton Bay Research Station, on Moreton Island off the south Queensland coast.
Her study, conducted as part of her doctor of philosophy thesis, analyzed data from previously published research and debris modeling to conclude that the riskiest locations for turtles are the east coasts of Australia and North America, Southeast Asia, Southern Africa and Hawaii. Those sites have high species diversity and more marine debris.
Schuyler told Plastics News her research included necropsies she conducted of 100 dead turtles found on the southern Queensland coastline and data provided by other marine biologists from necropsies on about 90 animals, mainly caught in long-line fishing operations in the North Pacific Ocean.
Her research follows publication of a similar study on seabirds, which found 60 percent of the world's seabirds have plastic fragments in their stomachs. It predicts the figure will increase to 99 percent by 2050.
Schuyler said turtles can pass some plastic fragments, but most remain in their bodies. Ingested plastic can kill turtles by blocking the gut or piercing the stomach wall and can release toxic chemicals into the animals' tissues.
“Very little — just 0.5 grams — is enough to kill a turtle,” she said.