Marine plastic pollution is real and serious. Time and again we have received reports showing how grievous the problem is. A large number of whales have turned up dead across various beaches of the world with their stomach full of plastic waste.
Latest of these grim incident comes through the images of a green sea turtle which was rescued after being found with a belly full of plastic. Turtle is under good condition now and is recovering. But the vets that took care of the turtle says that the animal spent the past month pooping out over 13 grams of nylon bags, netting, and other plastic trash.
The turtle was caught in a fishers’ net off the coast of the Argentine capital Buenos Aires on back in late 2019 from whom it was passed on to the Mundo Marino Foundation, an Argentina-based conservation group. It was revealed there that the turtle had a worrying amount of plastics stuck in its digestive tract.
“Through radiographic images, we could see foreign bodies inside. Therefore, we started treatment with a medication that increases peristaltic movements (movements of the digestive tract) and allows it to excrete what we saw in the images,” Ignacio Peña, a veterinarian at the Foundation, said.
“Today the turtle is eating green leaves, mainly lettuce and seaweed. We’re viewing this with an optimistic attitude, the progress is favorable,” he added.
According to the foundation, this is not the first time they are seeing something like this. Just this year, two other turtles of the same species were found with plastic in their digestive tracts. One was found dead with plastic in its stomach and the other was taken into care, where it defecated a fragment of plastic bag.
Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) are listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List. They follow a herbivorous diet. But the younger ones of the species are carnivorous or omnivorous. They mistake the plastic bag for a jellyfish or similar prey and eats it. Even a small plastic junk can prove fatal for the organism. A study in 2018 found that a turtle had a 22 percent chance of dying if it eats just one piece of plastic.
“There is not only a risk of a mechanical obstruction due to plastic intake. The accumulation of non-nutritive elements in the digestive systems of these marine reptiles can cause them a false sense of being full, which gradually weakens them,” added Karina Álvarez, biologist and Conservation Manager at the Mundo Marino Foundation.
“In addition, a large amount of gas could be generated in their organisms, product of the accumulated plastic. Which would affect their ability to dive and dive, both to feed and to find more suitable temperatures.”
Like our whales and these turtles, millions of animals are affected by marine plastic pollution every year. If we fail to do something about it now, there might be no comeback for large varieties of marine species.