Microplastics found in every sea turtle species in the world

Rubbish floating in Naifaru Harbour, Maldives, Indian Ocean, 25th January, 2015.
Photo credit: Getty

A damning new study has shown that every species of turtle from across three oceans have microplastics in their guts. 

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Exeter, took over 100 carcasses of turtles found stranded or in fishing nets from the Pacific and the Atlantic. The worst affected ocean was the Mediterranean.

The research estimates that 4.8 to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste could be entering the marine environment annually. 

It says that microplastics are becoming more of a concern as the larger plastic waste disintegrates.

The researchers were searching for synthetic particles less than five millimetres in length, and found a total of 800 throughout the 102 turtles.

Fibres from clothing, tyres, cigarette filters, ropes and fishing nets were the most common.

However, the real number could be much higher, as only part of each animal's gut was studied.

Dr Emily Duncan, who led the study, told the Daily Mail that "the effect of these particles on turtles is unknown. Their small size means they can pass through the gut without causing a blockage, as is frequently reported with larger plastic fragments".

"However, future work should focus on whether microplastics may be affecting aquatic organisms more subtly. They may carry contaminants, bacteria or viruses or they may affect the turtle at the cellular or sub-cellular level."

Plastics campaigner for Greenpeace Louise Edge says that the research "demonstrates the breadth of our plastics pollution problem".

"Our society's addiction to throwaway plastic is fuelling a global environment crisis that must be tackled at source".



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