In a recent study performed on seven species of sea turtles across three different oceans, researchers found one thing in common, all had micro plastics inside of them.
Due to years of careless plastic use and the non-existence or unused recycling systems across the world, the oceans have become the gathering ground for our planet’s waste. Due to the salt and acidity of the oceans, that plastic breaks down into small “microplastic” pieces, causing a real dilemma for the planets wildlife.
Researchers have turned their eyes on the animals that are being impacted by plastic to figure out how big of a problem it actually is and the results have been shocking.
The most recent study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, and performed by scientists from the University of Exeter in the UK, Plymouth Marine Laboratories, and Greenpeace Research Laboratories found evidence of microplastics in all of the 102 turtles studied. In total, over 800 synthetic particles were discovered in the reptiles digestive tracts, an average of eight pieces per turtle. The researchers did note that they only tested a small amount of the animals gut and they estimated the numbers to be much higher than 800.
“Our society’s addiction to throwaway plastic is fuelling a global environmental crisis that must be tackled at source,” Louise Edge, plastics campaigner at Greenpeace, said in a statement.
“While this study has been successful, it does not feel like a success to have found microplastic in the gut of every single turtle we have investigated,” added Dr Penelope Lindeque of Plymouth Marine Laboratory.
“From our work over the years we have found microplastic in nearly all the species of marine animals we have looked at; from tiny zooplankton at the base of the marine food web to fish larvae, dolphins, and now turtles.”
The researchers did take samples from all seven sea-dwelling species of turtle in the Atlantic, Pacific Oceans and Mediterranean Sea. All turtles had already been dead as a result of strandings or accidental bycatch.
“The effect of these particles on turtles is unknown,” said lead author Dr Emily Duncan of the University of Exeter.
“Their small size means they can pass through the gut without causing a blockage, as is frequently reported with larger plastic fragments. However, future work should focus on whether microplastics may be affecting aquatic organisms more subtly. For example, they may possibly carry contaminants, bacteria or viruses, or they may affect the turtle at a cellular or subcellular level. This requires further investigation.”
It is still unknown of the impact microplastics may have on marine animals once ingested as research in the subject is still very new but one thing is for certain, the synthetic material should not be there.