Be part of the solution, reduce your plastic use to help save marine turtles

Be part of the solution, reduce your plastic use to help save marine turtles

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IOSEA Marine Turtle Secretariat started this petition to Sea turtle lovers

Plastic accumulating in our oceans and on our beaches has become a global problem. The same properties that make plastics so useful — their durability and resistance to degradation — also make them nearly impossible for nature to break down completely. Most plastic items never fully disappear; they just get smaller and smaller. According to estimates, more than eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean each year – equivalent to a full garbage truck dumped into the sea every minute.

Because of their buoyancy and durability, plastic items can travel substantial distances and are now found in every ocean and on every shoreline from the Arctic through the tropics to the Antarctic, and even in the deepest part of the ocean. Some of the most important land-based sources of larger plastic objects (macroplastics), according to the United Nations Environment Programme, include: construction, household goods, packaging, coastal tourism, and food and drink packaging.

On the other hand, microplastics, generally defined as items smaller than 5mm, come from a variety of sources. Some are manufactured as such (primary microplastics), and used for example in personal care products or in plastics manufacturing (pre-production plastics) while others are fragments from disintegrating larger pieces, or they are generated from other sources such as fibers from washing clothes and particles originating from car tires (secondary microplastics).

The two major associated risks for sea turtles are entanglement in and ingestion of marine debris. Sea turtles can be ensnared by plastic debris, either accidentally or while investigating the item out of curiosity. When entangled, they often cannot swim and feed themselves properly anymore, or they suffocate. If the items cut into their skin and flesh, they can get serious infections.

Ingestion occurs when sea turtles swallow parts of or whole plastic items. To a hungry sea turtle, a plastic bag and a jellyfish look very similar. When swallowed, it can lead to a blockage of the intestinal tract of the animal causing malnutrition and starvation, resulting frequently in long-lasting suffering and death.

Furthermore, the accumulation of plastic debris on nesting beaches also poses a threat to turtle populations. Adult sea turtles often need to crawl through collected debris to find a place to nest and hatchlings can get caught in the debris, preventing them from reaching the sea. Tiny bits of plastic in the sand can also affect nests and hatchlings. A recent study further explains that plastic pollution acts as an insulator, increasing the temperature of the underlying sand and leading to more female turtle offspring.

Besides the suffering of individuals, the global presence of plastic waste even in the remotest corners of the earth and sea is putting additional pressure on marine turtle populations, many of which are already struggling with impacts of bycatch, directed take, habitat loss and climate change, to name but a few issues.

Preventing waste from reaching the marine environment is the most effective way to address this problem, and one of the most urgent short-term solutions is to commit to reducing the use of single use plastics. We can all play a role in reducing the amount of waste entering our oceans.  Here are a few easy steps:

  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle: Limit the use of plastics, for example, by investing in reusable shopping bags, cups, water bottles, and food containers. Use and dispose of plastic sustainably.
  • Tidy up: Join clean-up activities in your area, whether at beaches or along rivers. Remember to always keep an eye for any plastic debris when on a beach walk.
  • Spread the word: Inform others about the problem and how they can help.

To learn more about the global plastic problem and how you can be part of the solution, click here.

As part of the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the IOSEA Marine Turtle MOU, we are calling on sea turtle-loving people around the world to commit to these small but meaningful actions to save our sea turtle populations by signing this pledge:

“I will reduce my plastic use to help save sea turtles”


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