PLASTICS ARE KILLING THE OCEANS' TURTLES
Imagine you’re hungry and decide to roam your kitchen to find your absolute favorite snack. You find something that basically looks and smells just like the food you were looking for, so you decide to take a bite and gulp it down. This is exactly what happens to sea turtles every day when they accidentally mistake floating plastic garbage for food.
One of the oldest creatures on Earth, sea turtles have been around since the time of dinosaurs, dating back 110 million years. Today, plastic pollution is turning the ocean into a minefield for sea turtles, and many other marine animals, tipping the scales against the survival of these majestic animals…
More than half of all sea turtles are believed to have ingested plastic debris at some point in their lives. Plastic particles can be found in the guts of every species of sea turtle across the world and have led to nearly all species of sea turtles being classified as endangered. Ingesting even just one single piece of plastic can be deadly for sea turtles: in a new study, researchers found that a turtle has a 22% chance of dying if it eats just one piece of plastic, and a 50% chance after ingesting 14 plastic items.
HOW DOES PLASTIC KILL SEA TURTLES?
When sea turtles think they’re consuming some of their favorite foods, more than often they’re actually welcoming harmful pieces of waste into their digestive tract. This can lead to them suffering severe internal injuries, choking, starving or death. Just imagine how easily sea turtles can mistake pieces of plastic for crab or fish eggs, plastic bags for jellyfish, and fishing nets for seaweed. Although consuming debris is harmful to all marine animals, the downward facing spines in sea turtles’ throats make them especially susceptible to the effects of swallowing plastic debris, as they prevent them from regurgitating items they’ve swallowed. Once trapped in their stomach, even the smallest piece of plastic can lead to blockages and severe damage to the intestinal wall. Even when plastics do not immediately lead to internal injuries, they can give turtles the sensation of being full. In which case, turtles will refrain from seeking other sources of food and eventually starve to death.
Sadly, it’s not merely the consumption of plastic that poses a threat to these beloved marine species. When turtles get entangled in plastic pieces – be it beer can holders or fishing nets - they can get weighed down and drown, choke, lose their limbs or simply injure themselves beyond repair. Also, researchers are increasingly observing a phenomenon known as “bubble buts”, which leads to turtles floating as a result of trapped gas caused by the decomposition of marine debris inside the turtle’s stomach. When floating, turtles become an easier target for predators and are at higher risk of starvation as diving, and therefore finding food, becomes more difficult for them.
Baby sea turtles are particularly vulnerable to plastic pollution, with around half of very recent hatchlings already having stomachs full of plastic. Because of baby sea turtles being less selective about what they eat, scientists are concerned that far fewer turtles may be surviving long enough to reproduce, which will ultimately put the long term survival of many turtle species at risk.
As if all that wasn’t bad enough, it has been discovered that the birth rate of female sea turtles, as opposed to their male counterparts, is increasing and leading to gendered population imbalances. This is thought to be related to rising temperatures caused by global climate change, as the sex of a turtle is determined by the nest temperature during incubation. The links between human activities and climate change are well known, and this is just another example of how human activities are pushing beautiful, endangered species to the brink of extinction.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. About 95% of plastic packaging is discarded after just a single use. Avoid this kind of pollution by opting for recyclable plastics and reusable coffee cups, bottles, groceries bags and containers.
USE YOUR OWN CUTLERY. Whenever grabbing takeaway food, say no to plastic cutlery and straws. Instead, bring your own utensils and give sustainable straw alternatives a try.
PICK UP TRASH. Going for a long walk at the beach? Not littering goes without saying, but also keep your eyes open for plastic trash and pick it up as you go. Even better: get involved in or organize cleanups at your local beach!
CHOOSE OCEANBOUND PLASTIC. OceanBound plastic is recycled plastic, collected from areas at-risk of polluting our oceans. By using the world’s first and award-winning 100% OceanBound recycled plastic bottles, ViTA is reusing an otherwise pollutant material and preventing it from entering the oceans. Using non-toxic ink and labels that can easily be separated from the packaging, ViTA ensures all its packaging can be recycled and isn’t dumped into the oceans.
IT’S NOT ALL GLOOM AND DOOM
Remember: every piece of single-use plastic nearly lasts forever, polluting virtually every waterway and harming pretty much every single organism in the sea. As opportunistic eaters, sea turtles’ diets reflect what is circulating through our oceans, telling us a lot about the health of the ocean and our planet. Clearly, there’s still a lot of work to do! To combat this problem that ravages the environment in so many ways, join ViTA in its mission to keep the planet clean by capturing and diverting 10 million pounds of plastic at risk of polluting the world’s oceans – your hair and the oceans will thank you!