Last week, a juvenile leatherback sea turtle was found dead in Southhampton, New York according to Rachel Bosworth of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society.
The official reason for the death has not yet been discovered but it is many believe the sea turtle may have drowned due to plastics found in the its intestines.
During a necropsy on Saturday morning, staff biologists found a 13-gallon plastic bag, as well as smaller black garbage bags and food wrappers. Pathologists expect that it could take several months for the cause of death to be confirmed.
“That could have led to the animal’s death,” Ms. Bosworth said on Tuesday. “The lungs looked collapsed, as if the animal had drowned.”
According to Ms. Bosworth, marine debris is causing devastation to marine life in Southhampton as last year, approximately 14 off the 80 sea turtles serviced by responders from the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society died from ingesting marine debris or suffering entanglement.
The United States is currently producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year, 50 percent of which is for single use, like straws, plastic bags and disposable bottles—which account for approximately 14 percent of plastic pollution, according to non-profit Plastic Oceans.
Marine animals often mistake plastic for their food source resulting in the animal becoming sick and dying in some cases. For example, one of the staples of a sea turtles diet is jellyfish, which when in the water, closely resembles a plastic bag floating in the ocean.
Cities and countries are starting to recognize the importance of reducing our use of single-use plastics but we still have a long way to go. Too many businesses and governments are allowing or using plastics at the rate that is causing the problems we face today. You can start by saying no to single-use plastics but also write and call your local businesses and governments to start making the positive change to reducing these unnecessary items.