Shellebrating Turtles Worldwide
Today is World Turtle Day! A day to celebrate the importance of turtles in our environment and raise awareness about this quickly diminishing group of amazing creatures.
The theme for World Turtle Day 2022 is “Shellebrate!” asking everyone to Love and Save Turtles whilst educating people on the things they can do to help protect the habitats of turtles.
Did you know that nearly all species of sea turtle are now classified as endangered?
With 3 of 7 existing species being critically endangered, it will not shock many people that plastic pollution is one of the main causes of death for sea turtles. It’s estimated that over half of all sea turtles globally have eaten plastic particles and at least 1,000 turtles die each year from being tangled in plastic waste.
How Plastic Pollution is Killing our Sea Turtles
Unfortunately, there are numerous awful ways turtles get harmed or killed by plastic pollution. It has been recognised that there are 5 main ways plastics affect turtles:
- They confuse plastic bags for jellyfish and fishing nets for seaweed – they think they’re consuming some of their staple foods, in reality they’re ingesting harmful substances into their digestive tracts.
- Trash on nesting beaches – they often need to crawl through collected debris to find a place to nest and their hatchlings can get caught in the debris trying to make their way to the ocean; tiny bits of plastic in the sand can also affect them.
- They can get stuck in it whilst swimming – turtles make long migrations and pass-through areas with a lot of ocean plastic.
- Mylar balloons filled with helium can also look like jellyfish to them – they can travel hundreds of miles in the air and land in rivers or the ocean.
- They can consume microplastic from their food.
The most common causes of death for turtles through plastics pollution is through them consuming it or getting entangled in some form of plastic.
Costs of Turtles Consuming Plastic
The consumption of plastic can cost turtles their lives; if a turtle ate even just one piece of plastic it has a 22% chance of dying. It has been found that once a turtle had 14 plastic items in its gut, there was a 50% likelihood it would die, as it can cause blockages in their intestines and even pierce the intestinal wall causing internal bleeding. Plastic in the stomach of a turtle imitates the sensation of being full, they then neglect to seek out other food sources and can die from starvation.
Impacts of Turtles getting Entangled in Plastic
When turtles get entangled in plastic debris, they risk choking to death, losing limbs, and generally injuring themselves. Despite turtles being strong swimmers, when they become entangled in fishing gear and weighed down, they’re unable to surface and drown. A world-wide survey found that 91% of entangled turtles that were found dead suffered serious wounds from entanglement, leading to maiming, amputation, or choking.
How can you help?
The negative impacts plastic pollution has on turtles is extremely alarming. So much more needs to be done to stop these amazing creatures from suffering in such inhumane ways that could be prevented.
Coastal Plastic Pollution Challenge
Geovation is in the process of running a Coastal Plastic Pollution Challenge to help find a sustainable solution to this issue and help to save these innocent turtles! Want to find out more about the Challenge and how you could be involved? Find out more here or Register your Interest here.