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Study Suggests Baby Marine Turtles’ Stomachs Are Full Of Harmful Plastic Debris

According to a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, more than 700 marine species, from blue whales to small barnacles, have had interactions with plastics in the oceans

Study Suggests Baby Marine Turtles' Stomachs Are Full Of Harmful Plastic Debris
Highlights
  • Plastics now make up 80 per cent of all marine debris: Experts
  • Plastic is seen everywhere from surface waters to deep-sea sediments: Study
  • Plastics in the oceans come in the form of macroplastics, microplastics

Washington: The findings of a new marine study show that small juvenile marine turtles from the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean have a very high incidence of plastic ingestion. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science. Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing threats to marine wildlife. It is estimated that more than 700 marine species, from blue whales to small barnacles, have had interactions with plastics in the oceans.

Also Read: Delhi Artist Makes Artwork With Plastic, Diverts 250 Kg From Landfills

Plastics now makeup 80 per cent of all marine debris and can be found everywhere, from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. Plastics in the oceans come in the form of macroplastics (>1mm) and microplastics (<1mm). Plastic ingestion and entanglement (which can cause suffocation) has now been documented for every species of marine turtle. Small juvenile turtles are thought to be most at risk, as this life stage is most prone to entanglement and ingestion due to their feeding preferences, while the oceanic zones they inhabit overlap with areas of high plastic pollution. Ingestion of plastic is thought to lead to mortality through laceration, obstruction, or perforation of the gastrointestinal tract. It is also suspected to lead to malnutrition and chemical contamination.

Plastic ingestion by sea turtles To study just how much and what type of plastics are ingested by small juvenile turtles, researchers examined the contents of the stomach, intestines, cloaca and bladder of stranded or bycaught specimens from the Indian Ocean off Western Australia and the Pacific Ocean off Eastern Australia. They looked for plastics inside green (36 in the Pacific and 22 in the Indian Ocean), loggerhead (7 and 14), olive ridley (seven in the Pacific), hawksbill (five and two), and flatback turtles (10 and 18). They classified plastics according to colour and type (for example, hard plastics, rope, or plastic bags) and identified the sources of plastic polymers found. Plastics were only found in the gastrointestinal tract. The amount of plastics (>1mm) that were ingested varied by oceans and by species. The highest number of ingested plastic pieces occurred in green turtles: one animal in the Indian Ocean contained 343 pieces, and one animal in the Pacific Ocean contained 144. No plastic ingestion was found in sampled hawksbill turtles from either ocean, but this might have been due to the small sample size.

Also Read: In A First For The State, Tripura Gets A 680-Metre Road Made Of Plastic Waste

The proportion of turtles that had ingested plastic was much higher in the Pacific Ocean than in the Indian Ocean. From the specimens collected from the Pacific Ocean, green turtles were most likely to contain plastics (83 per cent), followed by loggerheads (86 per cent), flatbacks (80 per cent), and olive ridleys (29 per cent). On the other hand, from the specimens from the Indian Ocean, the flatback turtles contained the most plastics (28 per cent), followed by loggerheads (21 per cent) and green turtles (9 per cent).

For green turtles in the Pacific Ocean, from 0 to 0.9 per cent of the total body mass was ingested plastic, and from 0 to 2 per cent for flatback turtles in the Indian Ocean. The types of plastic also varied between the two study sites.

Plastic in the Pacific turtles was mostly hard fragments, which could come from a vast range of products used by humans, while Indian Ocean plastics were mostly fibres – possibly from fishing ropes or nets, says lead author Dr Emily Duncan of the University of Exeter.

A novel evolutionary trap the researchers bring attention to the potential evolutionary trap that plastic pollution has created for juvenile turtles. An evolutionary trap occurs when a previously adaptive behaviour or habitat now has negative effects on overall survival and reproduction. Post-hatchling turtles have adapted to enter the oceanic zone (for green, loggerhead, hawksbill, and olive ridley turtles) or neritic waters (flatback turtles) where they feed and grow into maturity. Normally, these habitats are ideal for their development, but the rapid introduction of plastic debris has made them risky for juvenile turtles. Actions to mitigate and prevent plastic pollution are necessary.

The polymers most commonly ingested by turtles in both oceans were polyethylene and polypropylene. These polymers are so widely used in plastic products that it’s impossible to pin down the likely sources of the fragments we found, so interventions are needed to stop plastic pollution from land-based sources. The next stage of our research is to find out if and how plastic ingestion affects the health and survival of these turtles. This will require close collaboration with researchers and veterinarians around the world, says Dr Duncan.

Also Read: Drowning In Plastic: Visualising The World’s Addiction To Plastic Bottles

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

World

24,24,98,327Cases
20,40,54,102Active
3,35,14,449Recovered
49,29,776Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 24,24,98,327 and 49,29,776 have died; 20,40,54,102 are active cases and 3,35,14,449 have recovered as on October 22, 2021 at 5:24 am.

India

3,41,43,236 15,786Cases
1,75,7453,086Active
3,35,14,449 18,641Recovered
4,53,042 231Deaths
In India, there are 3,41,43,236 confirmed cases including 4,53,042 deaths. The number of active cases is 1,75,745 and 3,35,14,449 have recovered as on October 22, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,98,218 1,573

27,899 1,434

64,30,394 2,968

1,39,925 39

Kerala

48,88,523 8,733

82,093 1,240

47,79,228 9,855

27,202 118

Karnataka

29,84,849 365

9,017 86

29,37,848 443

37,984 8

Tamil Nadu

26,91,797 1,164

13,790 268

26,42,039 1,412

35,968 20

Andhra Pradesh

20,62,303 493

5,500 66

20,42,476 552

14,327 7

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,068 10

107 5

16,87,062 14

22,899 1

West Bengal

15,83,646 833

7,535 44

15,57,090 775

19,021 14

Delhi

14,39,488 22

311 1

14,14,087 21

25,090

Odisha

10,37,056 524

4,336 51

10,24,422 573

8,298 2

Chhattisgarh

10,05,773 38

206 21

9,91,995 16

13,572 1

Rajasthan

9,54,395 2

36 2

9,45,405 4

8,954

Gujarat

8,26,353 13

156 20

8,16,110 33

10,087

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,721 12

88 6

7,82,110 6

10,523

Haryana

7,71,125 9

131 2

7,60,945 11

10,049

Bihar

7,26,042 6

30 0

7,16,351 6

9,661

Telangana

6,69,739 183

3,967 1

6,61,829 183

3,943 1

Assam

6,07,811 384

3,762 152

5,98,087 228

5,962 4

Punjab

6,02,135 22

226 6

5,85,358 27

16,551 1

Jharkhand

3,48,526 40

166 24

3,43,225 16

5,135

Uttarakhand

3,43,787 14

176 0

3,36,213 14

7,398

Jammu And Kashmir

3,31,386 87

814 14

3,26,143 73

4,429

Himachal Pradesh

2,22,138 202

1,452 58

2,16,955 140

3,731 4

Goa

1,77,765 59

618 21

1,73,790 35

3,357 3

Puducherry

1,27,564 43

454 7

1,25,258 50

1,852

Manipur

1,23,051 81

1,346 14

1,19,800 94

1,905 1

Mizoram

1,15,944 737

10,034 229

1,05,510 962

400 4

Tripura

84,369 18

105 10

83,448 8

816

Meghalaya

83,210 52

735 26

81,034 76

1,441 2

Chandigarh

65,315 3

26 2

64,469 1

820

Arunachal Pradesh

55,065 22

140 2

54,645 20

280

Sikkim

31,819 19

185 10

31,241 9

393

Nagaland

31,670 11

250 5

30,743 15

677 1

Ladakh

20,896 10

43 9

20,645 1

208

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,678 2

4 2

10,670

4

Lakshadweep

10,365

0 0

10,314

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,646

7 0

7,510

129

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