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Half of sea turtles have ingested plastic, study finds, as Greenpeace warns they could become extinct

climate change

Half of sea turtles have ingested plastic, a new study has found, as Greenpeace warns that they could become extinct.

The report states that plastic pollution causes death in turtles; once a turtle has consumed as few as 14 pieces of plastic it suffers a 50 per cent chance of mortality.

New research from the environmental group discovered that climate change is having a devastating impact on leatherback turtles, who now have to travel far further to find food because of warming seas.

The study, which was conducted in French Guiana, found the number of eggs laid by sea turtles on beaches is approximately 100 times smaller now than it was in the 1990s.

Leatherback turtles migrate north after nesting to reach cooler waters to find jellyfish, their prey. While they used to be able to travel shorter distances to find sufficient food, as the oceans warm and currents change, they are now being forced to go twice as far.

The extra energy expended to find new feeding grounds is likely to reduce the number of eggs they lay each season, shrinking turtle numbers.

Greenpeace worked with Damien Chevallier and other scientists from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the French state research organisation, to track the turtles.

The researchers tagged ten nesting female leatherback turtles on the Yalimapo and Remire-Montjoly beaches in French Guiana to track their subsequent migrations through the North Atlantic.

Some swam as far as Nova Scotia in northeast Canada and France to find new feeding grounds. Each of the turtles was given a name. One of them, Frida, was found dead on a beach in Suriname just 120km from her starting point. She had become entangled in a discarded gill net and drowned.

Will McCallum of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign, said: “Sea turtles survived the extinction of the dinosaurs, but they might not survive us. Human activity has put such severe pressure on sea turtle populations around the world that six out of the seven species are threatened with extinction and without urgent action, the situation will only get worse.”

Damien Chevallier, who lead the research, said: "We were thrilled to learn that nine of [the turtles] proceeded to swim thousands of kilometres north across through the Atlantic ocean: staggering distances, even reaching as far as Nova Scotia in Canada and France. Tragically, we also saw how one of them was found washed up just 120km from the nesting beach, drowned in a fishing net. It was a stark reminder of humanity’s impact on the natural world. Ocean wildlife is being rapidly degraded around the globe, with thousands of animal and plant species threatened with extinction, including sea turtles."

The CEO of oceans NGO, Oceana, Andy Sharpless, said: “This is very depressing but unfortunately unsurprising. The only way to cut back on the amount of plastic entering our oceans and therefore being ingested by sea turtles and other marine life, is to produce less of the stuff in the first place. Big corporates have a responsibility to us, to our marine life, to our planet, to reduce the amount of plastic they produce and find sustainable alternatives”

 

This article was originally published on telegraph.co