How can plastic and straws kill turtles?

Written by Nur Hasya Haziqah

Hasya was a second year student of International Business in Grenoble Ecole de Management, Grenoble, France, when she interned with TCS in 2020. She hoped to acquire great experience and knowledge regarding the world of non-profit organisations during her internship.

22 Nov 2020

300, 8, and 80.

These three numbers represent huge consequences for marine lives.

Why?

Approximately 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year with 8 million tons of them being thrown into the open ocean, making up 80% of known debris in our waters. Needless to say, the rate of production for plastics is growing exponentially, yet we are not able to dispose of them at the same speed. A single plastic straw thrown into the ocean may seem like nothing, but multiply that by millions (or even trillions), and we have numerous crisis on our hands. Foregoing the many blatant issues plastic pollution is causing, today, we shall discuss how plastic and straws impact sea turtles’ mortality.

A sea turtle consumes plastic because it often mistakes it for jellyfish, When this happens, it becomes vulnerable to intestinal blockage and internal bleeding. Straws are also part of the problem, with them either going down the same pathway of ingested normal plastic, or they get stuck in a sea turtle’s nostril. Either way, both are fatal for this marine creature. Gut impaction and perforation are foreseeable endings for sea turtles, as it is estimated that more than half of all sea turtles have ingested plastic at some point in their lives.

Next, sea turtles also become far buoyant than necessary after feeding on much plastic debris, a phenomenon scientists described as the “floater syndrome.” This is threatening for sea turtles as they will struggle to dive for food, escape predators or even avoid boats roaming the oceans. Unnaturally buoyancy can also hinder their growth and cause adverse reproduction rates. Additionally, warmed up plastic on nesting beaches could result in more female hatchlings. Moreover, while plastic affects sea turtles in all stages of their lives, younger turtles are exceptionally more susceptible to the harms of plastic debris.

While there are many ways to reduce plastic waste, we need to look at the bigger picture. Sure, using recyclable bottles and reusable containers will make the bleak future a tad brighter, the true issue at hand is over-consumption. Biodegradable substitutes and stainless steel straws are no more but a band-aid to an ever infectious wound, and we must learn to accept, adapt, and take action for a better change in terms of our consumer behavior. Tending to this massive wound spreading in our oceans and harming the sea turtles is no walk in the park, but we could always start by reducing our consumption, and perhaps even pick up the trash during a stroll on the beach.

References:

  1. Ichef.bbci.co.uk. 2020. Link. [Accessed 3 August 2020].
  2. Newsy. 2020. Sea Turtles Have To Deal With Plastic Threats On Two Fronts. Link. [Accessed 3 August 2020].
  3. SEE Turtles. 2020. Ocean Plastic — SEE Turtles. Link. [Accessed 3 August 2020].
  4. World Wildlife Fund. 2020. What Do Sea Turtles Eat? Unfortunately, Plastic Bags. Link. [Accessed 3 August 2020].
  5. wwf.org.au. 2020. Plastic Pollution Is Killing Sea Turtles: Here’s How. Link. [Accessed 3 August 2020].
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