Mediterranean sea turtles
A sea turtle entangled in netting (Yaniv Levy, director, Israel Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. Courtesy: The Times Of Israel

Plastic Responsible For One-Third Death Of Mediterranean Sea Turtles

In 2021, autopsies of six green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and 15 Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) found plastic in their digestive tracts

September 19, 2022

The Israel Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Cente, in the first advanced analysis performed on Mediterranean Sea Turtles, has found that plastic has either injured or killed one-third of the turtles brought to the centre for the study.

This, the centre says, is "no less than an environmental emergency".

"One in five turtles brought to the centre with such injuries did not survive," reported The Times Of Israel.

The study, which was published on September 18, 2022, found that of 1,473 turtles brought to the Centre between 1999 and 2021, 556 (some of whom died) had plastic-related injuries- whether from fishing equipment, polypropylene sacks, or other sources.

Turtle hatchlings leave the land and head to the sea, where they spend the first few years feeding on the surface of the water and being carried along by the ocean currents.

The research suggests that the greatest danger of polypropylene sacks occurs at this stage.

The writings on the captured sacks indicated that these sacks were used as livestock feed on ships for fattening and slaughtering calves and lambs.

The researchers found that entanglements were particularly prevalent along Israel's shoreline from June to September.

In 2021, autopsies of six green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and 15 Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) found plastic in their digestive tracts.

Researchers concluded it was significantly higher in young turtles, probably because of the areas they frequented during that developmental stage.

Eight per cent of sea turtles' stomachs contained fishing lines, the study further revealed.

After hatching on land, sea turtles spend many years in the sea, exposing themselves to different dangers, before returning to the beaches of their birth to breed and lay eggs.

Besides the plastic threat, sea turtles face dangers such as controlled explosions resulting from underwater oil exploration and collisions with marine vessels.

"The population of the Mediterranean Sea Turtles is under threat, especially in the Levantine basin," The Times Of Israel reported quoting the research report.

Green sea turtles are on International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) list of endangered species.

ALSO READ | Ocean Plastic Pollution To Quadruple By 2050

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