How The Plastic Bag “Syndrome” Affects Sea Turtles


It is a known fact that plastic debris in the ocean kills many ocean animals and is a major threat to ocean life of these animals. Most of this debris comes into the ocean from land and are deposited by humans who have little regard for marine life. Plastics do not only come from the ships and fishermen who go out to sea, but a majority of it gets washed from land to sea or are dumped by humans into the sea, which is an easy way out for them.  Apparently with the ten million tons of plastic in the ocean today, it is a terrible hazard for marine life.

According to Dr. Kathy Townsend, Marine Biologist of the University of Queensland, “This thing is everyone’s fault and because it is everyone’s fault, no one wants to take responsibility.” Hence, finally, it is the poor sea turtles and other marine life that suffer the brunt of the plastic menace.

Many turtles were killed due to plastic debris and had evidence of plastic in their stomachs, which no doubt killed them due to the toxic substances in plastic. These plastic containers and different other forms of plastic are washed from the beaches into the ocean and consumed by sea turtles and other marine animals. Major incitement of this is carried out by human beings. The downward facing spines in their throats prevent the possible ejection of matter from the pharynx or esophagus.  When plastics get trapped in the esophagus of sea turtles, it prevents them from swallowing food.

Sea turtles swallow plastic debris and then tend to float on their stomachs. Hence there is no way of consuming food and they eventually die. The more susceptible to marine debris are the young sea turtles.

At most times sea turtles mistake a plastic bag for that of a swimming jellyfish and even plastic bags and bottles all look like food for a hungry sea turtle. Turtles can be killed instantly by consuming plastics, as these plastics block their intestines or may penetrate the walls of the intestines. The saddest part of it is that when the sea turtle consumes plastic debris, they will feel as if they have had their fill, but actually it is the plastic that has filled their stomachs and eventually they will die to malnutrition as they cannot consume their normal feed.

The major disaster is that when a sea turtle consumes plastic, the plastic injects the gut of the sea turtle, creating a major catastrophe to its life. Sometimes sea turtles do not die immediately after consuming plastic but go through a painful long drawn journey toward death, which is indeed a sad thing today. It is said that around 100 million marine animals are killed annually by the consumption of plastic and other debris that enter the ocean via land and those that are dumped from ships and by fishermen. For sea turtles, the score is around 1,000 per year are killed by the consumption of plastic.

Sea turtles also consume plastic fishing nets and lines and these debris get entangled in their intestines causing a painful and slow death to these animals who are on the way to extinction. Apart from consumption of plastic debris sea turtles get entangled in discarded fishing nets and lines and this poses a greater threat to them than the usual oil discharges from ships.

Hence it is the responsibility of all concerned that they be wary of dumping plastic debris into the ocean. This issue has been discussed at length, but it findings and suggestions have never been implemented. Thus, the lives of the sea turtles are at stake due to human error.

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