Sea Turtles ‘at risk of extinction’ from plastic

WE’RE being urged to do everything we can to reduce our plastic pollution to help save Sea Turtles from extinction.

Today is World Sea Turtle Day and we’re being called on to do our bit to protect the threatened species.

The graceful creatures live more than 150 years on Earth, but with the growing amount of plastic accumulating in our ocean, experts warn they are at risk of extinction.


More than 8 million tonnes of plastic makes its way into the ocean every year.

Dr Rosie Booth, Director of Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital said turtles often mistake the plastic as food and eat it, or become entangled in it.

“Recently we had three very small sea turtles who were brought to Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital and they sadly didn’t survive because their intestines were full of micro-plastic,” Dr Booth said.

“Half of the world’s sea turtles have ingested plastic that is often mistaken as a food source, and abandoned nets and fishing line also pose a huge entanglement risk to marine life.”

Source: © Robert Irwin / Australia Zoo

Dr Booth said six out of seven species of sea turtle are currently threatened with extinction.

“It’s never been more important for all of us to do our part to protect our sea turtles,” she said.

“We can all help to keep our ocean clean by reducing the amount of plastic we use, recycling and properly disposing of our litter and picking up any rubbish we see on our beaches.

“If we can all do our part to prevent ocean pollution we will hopefully see an increase in the number of sea turtles around the world.”

A sick sea turtle was rescued from the ocean off the Sunshine Coast on Saturday after it was found floating on the surface, unable to dive underwater.

Lifeguards brought the turtle back to shore and handed over to the Sea Life – a marine mammal park, oceanarium and wildlife sanctuary at Mooloolaba – for treatment.

Dr Booth said sea turtles played a vital role in maintaining the health of the ocean’s ecosystem and without them, the sea could become an “underwater desert”.

Australia Zoo recently opened a brand new turtle rehabilitation facility at its Wildlife Hospital to help treat the growing number of sick and injured turtles.

Since opening in 2004, the Zoo has treated more than 1,200 turtles.

Sea World Marine Education Supervisor, Erin Wyatt, said marine debris was proving to be a major issue.

“At Sea World, we see first-hand the effects marine debris is having on marine wildlife,” Ms Wyatt said.

“Of the injuries we see due to direct human impacts, the majority of birds and turtles come into our care because of entanglement in fishing line or nets, or ingestion of line, lures and hooks.”

Source: © Robert Irwin / Australia Zoo

Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch said about 75 per cent of marine debris collected along the Queensland coast was made up of plastic materials.

She said the state’s ban on plastic shopping bags combined with the container refund scheme was helping combat the problem.

“Already more than 542 million containers have been returned in the first seven months of the container refund scheme,” Ms Enoch said.

“We know that many of these containers have come from the litter stream, with surveys conducted since the scheme started on 1 November last year already showing up to a 35% reduction in beverage container litter.

“All this is helping to make Queensland a much cleaner place and protecting our precious wildlife.”