More Turtles. Less Plastic - Research and Recovery Successes

Lab Note #3
Jun 19, 2014
The sea turtle conservation workers on the beaches of Costa Rica prevented poachers from looting endangered sea turtle eggs during the night, and performed research on the density of marine debris and plastic pollution during the day. The team at Punta Pargos with Marc Ward and Sea Turtles Forever partnered with several college classes and many locals during the season. Because the sea turtle nest forms a depression on the ground, plastic debris collects inside of it on top of the exact area where innocent hatchlings emerge from the sand. This situation exposes hatchlings to increased risk of contact with and entanglement in marine plastic pollution debris, which can contain high concentrations of toxic chemicals. 

Click here for the Sea Turtles Forever page on Facebook, and follow all the updates.

Thanks to all of our Experiment Crowdfund Supporters, teams of conservation scientists are also hard at work in California and Oregon. Dr. Chris Pincetich (pictured, right) led efforts to align Point Reyes National Seashore Association's Trails & Ocean Stewardship Day event with National Park Service, Sea
Turtles Forever, and Marine Debris Action Teams to remove over 1,150 lbs of plastic marine debris in 2014! This area is a feeding hot-spot for critically endangered Pacific leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) sea turtles, who are known to ingest plastic by accident and become entangled in fishing gear like removed by the team. The data collected from these efforts significantly increases our understanding of annual amounts of large debris in this area, debris that also can entangle and kill gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus).

Click here for April 12 photos and here for June 7 photos of Marine Debris Action Teams removing over 1,150 lbs of plastic marine debris in 2014!

Risk calculations are improved with robust data. The following peer-reviewed manuscript published in Marine Pollution Bulletin can be used to improve our understanding of the risk of toxic plastic ingestion to endangered sea turtles and advance the project's goals.

"This study documents and quantifies the ingestion and defecation of debris by 74 loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the South-West Indian Ocean. Debris was found in 51.4% of gut or fecal samples of loggerheads by-catch from Reunion Island long liners. Anthropogenic debris was ubiquitous in our samples with plastics accounting for 96.2% of the total debris collected."

Ingestion and defecation of marine debris by loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta, from by-catches in the South-West Indian Ocean. Ludovic Hoaraua, Lara Ainleyb, Claire Jeana, and Stéphane Ciccioneaa Kelonia.  Available online 7 June 2014
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