It's sad when our turtles are found with ingested plastic. Most recently in Boca Raton, Florida, a veterinarian took in a tiny loggerhead turtle to her clinic. The symptoms experienced by the little guy was lethargy and lifelessness, when healthy sea turtles are usually super energetic.
The veterinarian, Ms. Emily Mirowski hoped it would survive, since its shell, a beautiful orange brown was unharmed and healthy-looking. The turtle was small enough to fit into the palm of this 29-year-old’s hand. But unfortunately it died, soon after its diagnosis.
Cause of Death
During the process of determining the cause of death, Mirowski found this little guy had ingested 104 pieces of plastic.
“Every time she cut through, there was more plastic coming out of its stomach,” said Whitney Crowder, 39, who runs the rehabilitation center where the turtle was washed up.
When shared with thousands of shocked users on social networks, Crowder assessed it as commonplace.
“It’s washback season at Gumbo Limbo and weak, tiny turtles are washing up along the coastline needing our help… (and) 100% of our washbacks that didn’t make it had plastic in their intestinal tracts,” read their Facebook post.
Washbacks are young turtles, which that have swum out into the ocean and made it to the weed-line [aka the Sargassum] where turtles live for the first couple years of their life. Trash accumulates on the weed-line, and so inevitably the baby turtles end up eating it.
At the Boca clinic, the problem has become so common, that a "Drop-off" entrance was designed to provide quicker access. The three members of the staff carry a 24-hour-emergency line everywhere they go, where thousands of washbacks are brought in each season.
Crowder describes it as an epidemic: “Just this morning, we have 60 washback turtles sitting in our hatchling tank. Six have died already,” she says.
Plastics block up a turtle's internal organs, with some that have had their stomachs punctured by it.
It was the task of the Vet team to attempt to bring them back to full health. They immediately put them on a diet of diuretics, which flushes plastic out of their system.
Almost like the reality TV show 'Survivor' the numbers dwindle down, as more and more perish with each passing day.
Nursing the survivors back to health, include a water-tank where they can rest on small hammocks to prevent them from drowning when they are too tired to swim.
Then in a few weeks, the finalists are driven out to the Gulf Stream and let out to sea to fend in the open ocean.
“It makes me feel sad having to put them back where we found them, but that’s nature,” says Crowder.
What can you do to save the Turtles?
“People need to eliminate single-use plastics from their lifestyle. This problem is much bigger than just individual change, but that’s where you can start,” noted the Vet team.
The Green Education Foundation lists 17 ways to reduce our plastic waste:
- Stop using plastic straws, even in restaurants. If a straw is a must, purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw
- Use a reusable produce bag. A single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. Purchase or make your own reusable produce bag and be sure to wash them often!
- Give up gum. Gum is made of a synthetic rubber, aka plastic.
- Buy boxes instead of bottles. Often, products like laundry detergent come in cardboard which is more easily recycled than plastic.
- Purchase food, like cereal, pasta, and rice from bulk bins and fill a reusable bag or container. You save money and unnecessary packaging.
- Reuse containers for storing leftovers or shopping in bulk.
- Use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages, even when ordering from a to-go shop
- Bring your own container for take-out or your restaurant doggy-bag since many restaurants use styrofoam.
- Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters or invest in a refillable metal lighter.
- Avoid buying frozen foods because their packaging is mostly plastic. Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic. Plus you'll be eating fewer processed foods!
- Don't use plasticware at home and be sure to request restaurants do not pack them in your take-out box.
- Ask your local grocer to take your plastic containers (for berries, tomatoes, etc.) back. If you shop at a farmers market they can refill it for you.
- The EPA estimates that 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the US each year. Use cloth diapers to reduce your baby's carbon footprint and save money.
- Make fresh squeezed juice or eat fruit instead of buying juice in plastic bottles. It's healthier and better for the environment.
- Make your own cleaning products that will be less toxic and eliminate the need for multiple plastic bottles of cleaner.
- Pack your lunch in reusable containers and bags. Also, opt for fresh fruits and veggies and bulk items instead of products that come in single serving cups.
- Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor
Please try to put any or all of these practices into use.
Primary Source: The Guardian