Most young green and loggerhead turtles in Queensland waters have eaten plastic, research finds

Most young turtles caught off the coast of Queensland have ingested plastics, new research shows.

About 83% of green turtles and 86% of loggerhead turtles found off the coast had plastics within them, a study from Deakin, James Cook and Murdoch universities found.

Prof Mark Hamann, from James Cook uni, said plastic pollution had become one of the most pressing threats to marine wildlife.

“Plastics now make up 80% of all marine debris and can be found everywhere, from surface waters to deep-sea sediments,” Hamann said.

“Plastic ingestion and entanglement, which can cause suffocation, has now been documented for every species of marine turtle.”

Researchers examined the contents of the stomach, intestines, cloaca and bladder of stranded or by-caught turtles from the Indian Ocean off Western Australia and the Pacific Ocean off eastern Australia.

Hamann said one turtle found in the Indian Ocean contained 343 pieces of plastic; another in the Pacific Ocean contained 144.

The proportion of turtles that had ingested plastic was much higher in the Pacific than in the Indian Ocean.

The research, which also involved the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, was published in the peer-reviewed Frontiers in Marine Science journal on Monday.

Researchers suggested small juvenile turtles are most at risk because 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.

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