- Science now has definitive proof that plastic debris is
killing sea turtles.
- Australian scientists analysed nearly 1,000 turtles found
dead and washed up on beaches.
- Their study found that once a turtle has 14 plastic items in
its gut there was a 50% likelihood that it would die.
Up until recently, it was unclear as to whether the plastic in
oceans directly contributed towards turtles dying early.
It’s now been confirmed that a sea turtle that has ingested just
one piece of plastic has more than a one in five chance of dying,
according to a study by researchers at CSIRO Oceans and
Analysis of nearly 1,000 turtles found dead and washed up on
beaches around Australia shows that the more plastic a turtle
consumes the greater the likelihood that it will die because of
“We knew that turtles were consuming a lot of plastic, but we
didn’t know for certain whether that plastic actually caused the
turtles’ deaths, or whether the turtles just happened to have
plastic in them when they died,” said Dr Chris Wilcox, Principal
Research Scientist with CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere.
“In other words, we wanted to know ‘How much plastic is too much
plastic?’ for sea turtles.”
The scientists found that once a turtle had 14 plastic items in
its gut there was a 50% likelihood that it would cause death.
However, that’s not to say that a turtle won’t die if they
consume less than 14 pieces of plastic.
Sea turtles were among the first animals recorded to be ingesting
plastic debris, a phenomenon that occurs in every region of the
world and in all seven marine turtle species.
Globally, it is estimated that 52% of all sea turtles have eaten
plastic. Determining the effect this is having on turtle
mortality is a step forwards for understanding the impact of
plastic pollution on sea turtle populations.
“Millions of tonnes of plastic debris is entering our world’s
oceans on a yearly basis,” said Dr Wilcox.
“The model we’ve developed can be adapted to help us understand
the impact of plastic ingestion not just on individuals, but
whole populations of other endangered marine species as well.
“The better we understand the issue, the better equipped we are
to address the problem, and work towards viable, scalable