A baby sea turtle that washed ashore in Boca Raton, Florida last week had 104 pieces of plastic in it stomach. The plastic products ranged from wrappers to balloons to bottle labels to twist ties used to cinch trash bags, as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton shared a photograph on Facebook of the turtle next to all the pieces of plastic that it had ingested.
"It was weak and emaciated. I could just tell it wasn't doing well," said Emily Mirowski, a sea turtle rehabilitation assistant at the center, who examined the turtle before it died, as CNN reported.
"As she cut into it, it was just like, whoa. Every time she cut through there was more plastic coming out of its stomach," said Whitney Crowder, the Nature Center's sea turtle rehabilitation coordinator, as the Guardian reported.
While the image of the turtle next to its plastic is troubling and surprising to the many thousands of people who have shared the photograph on Facebook, it is anything but surprising to Crowder and her colleagues.
"It's washback season at Gumbo Limbo and weak, tiny turtles are washing up along the coastline needing our help," the Facebook post reads. "Unfortunately, not every washback survives. 100% of our washbacks that didn't make it had plastic in their intestinal tracts. This turtle, which would fit in the palm of your hand, had eaten 104 pieces of plastic. This is a sad reminder that we all need to do our part to keep our oceans plastic free."
In one comment, the Nature Center had to respond to incredulity that so much plastic could be in one baby turtle.
"Yes, all of this plastic came from one tiny turtle," the center responded to one posted comment, as the Sun-Sentinel reported. "The plastic plugs them up and causes them to go into septic shock. We perform necropsies on all turtles that die in our care which is how we determine cause of death. Plastic pollution is the sad world we live in now. We must do better."
Turtles washing up and suffering malnutrition from plastic consumption are so common that Gumbo Limbo Nature Center put a cooler in front of its building for residents to safely drop them off for rehabilitation. That's how the loggerhead came to the center's attention, according to CNN.
"Just this morning, we have 60 washback turtles sitting in our hatchling tank. Six have died already," said Crowder to the Guardian last week.
Washbacks are young turtles that have swum out into the ocean and made it to mats of floating seaweed called sargassum, where they live for their first few years.. Trash accumulates on the seaweed-line and is easily mistaken for sea-grass, so the baby turtles inevitably end up consuming it, according to the Guardian.
"The issue is that with all the plastic in the oceans, that's where the plastic sticks," said Mirowski to CNN. " All the microplastics stick to the seaweed, and it looks like food to the baby turtles."
She added that the plastic gives the turtles a false feeling of being full. As a result, they do not eat or receive the nutrition they need to survive.
At the center, the rehabilitation staff gives the turtles a diuretic in an attempt to flush the plastic out of their system, according to the Guardian.
"We give them a small amount of fluids everyday to get them hydrated," said Mirowski to CNN. "Then we hope they'll pass the plastic naturally. The important thing is getting them hydrated to get their appetite back."
If they are nursed back to health, they are brought back out to sea where they run the risk of eating plastic again.
"It's extremely depressing. You definitely have to put your blinders on just to push through the day, but I try to stay positive," said Crowder to the Guardian.
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Endangered green turtles are having a problem. They're mistaking plastic pollution for the seaweed they survive on, according to new research from the University of Exeter in the UK and the Society for the Protection of Turtles in Cyprus, as Newsweek reported.
Green sea turtles use their eyesight to find food, so long, thin bits of green, black or clear plastic that resemble sea grass deceived many turtles. And, the younger they were, the more likely they were to mistake plastic for their dietary staple, study reported. The paper was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Black trash bags, fragments of fishing ropes and takeaway bags all have the potential to confuse turtles, the BBC reported.
"Previous research has suggested leatherback turtles eat plastic that resembles their jellyfish prey, and we wanted to know whether a similar thing might be happening with green turtles," said Dr. Emily Duncan, of the University of Exeter who was the paper's lead author, in a statement. "Sea turtles are primarily visual predators — able to choose foods by size and shape — and in this study we found strong evidence that green turtles favor plastic of certain sizes, shapes and colors."
The researchers studied of 34 turtles that had washed up on the beaches of the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus. They were able to look at the insides of 19 turtles. All of them had swallowed plastic.
One had swallowed 183 pieces of plastic, the BBC reported.
The plastic crisis is particularly troubling for younger turtles, which ate more plastic than the older ones, possibly because they were "less experienced" and so "more likely to eat the wrong food," the study said.
"Research like this helps us understand what sea turtles are eating, and whether certain kinds of plastic are being ingested more than others," said Prof. Brendan Godley, who leads the Exeter Marine research strategy, in a University of Exeter press release.
"It's important to know what kinds of plastic might be a particular problem, as well as highlighting issues that can help motivate people to continue to work on reducing overall plastic consumption and pollution," she said.
The plastic crisis is a worldwide scourge for marine life, which routinely mistake plastic for food and feel full, but do not get any nutrition. This past spring, a whale washed up on the shores of the Philippines with nothing in its belly but 88 pounds of plastic in its stomach. Then a few weeks later, 48 pounds of plastic were found in the belly of a pregnant whale that washed ashore in Sardinia in Italy.
Besides swallowing plastic, marine life can get caught in plastic debris. Last month, a study published in Endangered Species Research tallied hundreds of sharks and rays that had been entangled in discarded plastic, as EcoWatch reported.
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Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
A rare species of giant tortoise, feared extinct for more than 100 years, was sighted on the Galápagos island of Fernandina Sunday, the Ecuadorian government announced.
The tortoise, an adult female of the species Chelonoidis phantasticus, was found during an investigation by the Galápagos National Park and the U.S. environmental group Galapagos Conservancy, The Associated Press reported.
BREAKING NEWS! GC’s own @wacho_tapia just returned from Fernandina Island in #Galapagos, where they discovered a f… https://t.co/5EyjPcEaNL— GalapagosConservancy (@GalapagosConservancy)1550693757.0
The researchers also thought that the tracks and faeces they had observed on their trip indicated there might be other members of the extremely endangered species living on the island. Up until Sunday's discovery, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had listed the tortoise as critically endangered and possibly extinct, but noted that there was an unconfirmed sighting in 2009, and previous expeditions had found faeces and bite marks on cacti on the island.
"This encourages us to strengthen our search plans to find more tortoises, which will allow us to start a captive breeding program to recover this species," Galápagos National Park Director Danny Rueda said in a park Facebook post.
The tortoise, who is likely more than 100 years old, was moved to a tortoise breeding center on Santa Cruz Island, The Associated Press reported.
"They will need more than one, but females may store sperm for a long time," Duke University Conservation Ecology Professor Stuart Pimm told The Associated Press of a potential breeding program. "There may be hope."
The last confirmed sighting of Chelonoidis phantasticus was in 1906, when one was found by an expedition of the California Academy of Sciences, according to The Independent.
Until this week, specimen 8101 was the only known giant tortoise from the Galapagos island of Fernandina. Congratul… https://t.co/PNrjHLWTbL— Henry Nicholls (@Henry Nicholls)1550706088.0
Fernandina is the youngest and most volcanically active of the Galápagos islands. The IUCN listed "the frequent volcanic lava flows that nearly cover the island" as the force that might have driven the species close to extinction.
There were once 14 species of giant tortoises on nine Galápagos islands, but now that number has fallen to 10 species on six islands, The Independent reported.Ecuadorian Environment Minister Marcelo Mata Guerrero was quoted on the Galápagos National Park Facebook page as saying the park could "count on all the backing of the national government and the Environment Ministry to conduct the necessary investigations to guarantee the conservation and preservation of the species that call the Galápagos home."
The current outbreak, which began in October 2017 off southwest Florida, has been tied to a record 589 sea turtle deaths and 213 manatee deaths, the Herald-Tribune reported, citing figures from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
As of December 20, 127 bottlenose dolphins have been stranded along the southwest coast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The mammals showed positive results for the red tide toxin, brevetoxin.
Sea turtle species that have been affected by the poisonous brew including loggerhead and Kemp's ridley sea turtles, both of which are federally protected. Kemp's ridleys are considered the world's most endangered marine turtle.
Local turtle patrollers, including Suzi Fox, the director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring, told the Herald-Tribune that the outbreak could affect next year's sea turtle nesting season, an unfortunate turn after several record seasons.
Blooms of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, were detected as recently as Jan. 11 in southwest Florida, including "high" cell concentrations (more than 1 million cells per liter) in Sarasota County and offshore of Collier County, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Current red tide sampling mapFlorida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Respiratory irritation—a symptom from breathing red tide toxins—was also reported in Manatee and Sarasota counties that same week, the commission said.
Last week, Florida's new Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled a sweeping executive order that includes plans to study red tide and the creation of a task force to solve Florida's other algae outbreak, the toxic blue-green bloom from Lake Okeechobee.
The Establishment of a Blue-Green Algae Task Force, charged with focusing on expediting progress toward reducing th… https://t.co/5s3EsgqgtO— Ron DeSantis (@Ron DeSantis)1547132852.0
Oil Tanker Fire Near Hong Kong Kills 1, Potential Spill Could Threaten Endangered Turtles and Dolphins
An oil tanker caught fire off of Hong Kong's Lamma Island Tuesday morning, leaving one person dead and two missing.
"We could see that the victim who passed away had been burned," police representative Wong Wai-hang said in a briefing reported by The New York Times. "There were clear injuries on his head and fractures in his hands and feet."
An additional 23 crew members were rescued from the water. Four were injured and one was being treated in intensive care.
The explosions were strong enough to be felt by residents of the nearby island, CNN reported.
"My windows shook really badly but (there) was no wind," Lamma resident Deb Lindsay told CNN. "I thought there had been an earthquake!"
Lamma Island residents worried about a potential oil spill reaching their coastline. Southern Lamma Island hosts a protective nesting site for green turtles, a severely endangered species. An endangered colony of white dolphins also calls Hong Kong waters home.
Turtle sightings dwindle on Hong Kong's 'turtle cove' www.youtube.com
Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department told CNN that cleaning vessels had been immediately placed on standby but that no oil spill had yet been detected. Some liquid was seen spilling from the boat, but it was unclear if it was oil or water from firefighting, and there was no oil residue on the water around the vessel.
The boat had been refueling in Hong Kong on its way to Thailand from the southern Chinese city of Dongguan, The New York Times reported.
The Fire Services Department's division commander of marine and diving Yiu Men-yeung told The South China Morning Post that the boat was tilted 30 degrees as of Tuesday evening but was at no risk of sinking.
However, officials said the boat was too hot to tow away immediately, or to board to discover the cause of the fire, and would need several days to cool down.
One fire department insider with 30 years of experienced explained to the South China Morning Post that fighting fires on oil tankers was especially challenging:
"Depending on the situation, the two major fireboats spray foam to coat the tanker and suppress combustion. Other fireboats use water jets to cool the vessel," the insider said, on condition of anonymity.
"It has taken [firefighters overseas] several days or even a few weeks to extinguish oil tanker fires in worst-case scenarios. It is definitely not easy."
The insider also added that rescue operations were difficult because the heat of the vessels made boarding perilous. Further, the fact that oil leaks could cause fires to break out on the water itself make rescue diving too dangerous.
Iranian Tanker Leaves Massive Oil Slick, Worries Mount Over Environmental Damage https://t.co/3rC5F0V2lU… https://t.co/ArZeUuxzNf— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1516035229.0
East Island in the French Frigate Shoals, an atoll around 550 miles northwest of Honolulu that formed part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, was entirely washed over by storm surge from Hurricane Walaka this month, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) satellite images show.
"I had a holy shit moment, thinking 'Oh my God, it's gone,'" University of Hawaii climate scientist Chip Fletcher told Honolulu Civil Beat. "It's one more chink in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled."
East Island after Hurricane Walaka.FWS
East Island was only 11 acres—around a half mile long and 400 feet wide. But it was an important habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals, Hawaiian green sea turtles and several species of seabirds.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) protected species division director Charles Littnan told The Huffington Post he was not yet sure what the island's loss would mean for the wildlife that depended on it, but that similar small islands were increasingly likely to disappear as climate change leads to sea level rise.
"This event is confronting us with what the future could look like," Littnan said.
Another nearby island, Trig Island, also disappeared this year due to wave activity, but its erosion had been predicted for years, Honolulu Civil Beat said.
A Hawaiian monk sealFWS
Hawaiian monk seals are among the most endangered marine mammals in the world, The Huffington Post reported. Around 80 percent of their population lives in the northwestern Hawaiian islands.
The French Frigate Shoals had decreased in importance as a prime breeding ground for the seals in recent years, but 16 percent of their total population still lives there, and 30 percent of those have their pups on East Island, Honolulu Civil Beat reported.
Twelve pups were born there in 2018, and NOAA told The Huffington Post that all but one were weaned before the storm struck. Littnan said scientists won't know for sure how the hurricane impacted the seals until they return to research next year.
A green turtle pair on a beach in the French Frigate ShoalsNOAA
Hawaiian green sea turtles also relied on the island for breeding. 96 percent of the species nests in the French Frigate Shoals, and half lay eggs on East Island. All the adult turtles had left by the time the storm arrived, but 19 percent of the nests on East Island and 20 percent of the nests on nearby Tern Island were destroyed in the storm.
The grapefruit-sized, approximately 18-year-old eastern box turtle was found by a zoo employee at Druid Hill Park in July. The reptile had multiple fractures on the bottom part of his shell and was taken to the zoo's hospital for treatment.
Veterinarians performed surgery on the turtle and used metal bone plates, sewing clasps and surgical wire to hold the shell fragments together.
The vets then came up with a clever idea to keep the bottom of the shell elevated off the ground so it could properly heal.
"They don't make turtle-sized wheelchairs," veterinary extern Garrett Fraess explained in a press release received by EcoWatch. "So, we drew some sketches of a customized wheelchair and I sent them to a friend who is a LEGO enthusiast."
A few weeks after surgery, the turtle received his very own multi-colored wheelchair, featuring a frame and wheels made with LEGO bricks. The device was attached to the turtle's upper shell with plumbers putty.
"He took off and has been doing great," Fraess said. "Turtles are really good at healing as long as the shell remains stable."
Ellen Bronson, senior director of animal health, conservation and research at the zoo, said that the turtle will likely use his LEGO wheelchair through the winter and into the spring until all of the fragments have fused together and the shell has completely healed.
"We are very happy that he is recovering well from his injuries and we plan to return him to the wild once he is fully healed," she added.
The turtle's plastron (the bottom part of his shell) is healing.The Maryland Zoo
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The turtle washed up on the beach on June 4, Weerapong Laovechprasit, a veterinarian at the Eastern Marine and Coastal Resource Research and Development Centre told AFP.
X-rays on the reptile revealed a blockage in its stomach. A team of vets tried to save the turtle and feed it intravenously, but it died two days later, AFP reported.
A necropsy on the turtle uncovered plastic shreds from fishing gear, rubber bands and other marine debris clogged in its stomach.
"It was feeling weak and couldn't swim," Weerapong told AFP. "The main cause of death is the sea trash."
Green turtles are classified as endangered, according to the WWF, due to "overharvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites."
Around the world, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste gets dumped in our oceans every year. A 2015 study found that 60 percent of the world's plastic waste comes from just five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist and lecturer at Kasetsart University, told AFP that about 300 marine animals including pilot whales, sea turtles and dolphins die each year in Thailand after ingesting plastic.
"It's a huge problem," he said. "We use a lot of plastic."
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By Mariana Fuentes
Have you ever considered that small pieces of plastic less than 5 millimeters long, or smaller than a pencil eraser head, called microplastics, can affect large marine vertebrates like sea turtles?
My research team first discovered this disturbing fact when we started to quantify the amount and type of microplastic at loggerhead nesting grounds in the northern Gulf of Mexico, between St. Joseph State Park and Alligator Point in Florida.
Microplastics, which are created by the breakdown of larger plastic pieces into smaller ones, or manufactured as microbeads or fibers for consumer products, can change the composition of sandy beaches where marine turtles nest. Marine turtles, which are listed under the Endangered Species Act, lay their eggs in coastal areas, and the environment in which their eggs incubate can influence hatching success, the gender and size of hatchlings.
In particular, the sex of marine turtle eggs is determined by the sand temperature during egg incubation. Warmer sand produces more females and cooler sand, more males. Temperatures between approximately 24-29.5 degrees C produce males and above 29.5 to 34 degrees C, females. Since plastics warm up when exposed to heat, when combined with sand, microplastics may increase the sand temperature, especially if the pigment of the plastic is dark. This could potentially affect the nesting environment of marine turtles, biasing the sex ratio of turtles toward producing only females and affecting the future reproductive success of the species.
Coastal areas and consequently marine turtle nesting environment exposed to microplastic may also be harmed by toxic chemicals that leach out of the microplastics when they are heated.
Given the potential impacts of microplastic on marine turtle incubating environment, we did a study to determine the microplastic exposure of the 10 most important nesting sites in Florida for the Northern Gulf of Mexico loggerhead subpopulation. Microplastic was found at all nesting sites, with the majority of pieces located at the dunes, the primary site where turtles nest.
We took several samples of sand at each nesting site during the Northern Hemisphere summer months, May to August, which is when turtles are nesting in the region.
We are still unsure what the implications of these exposures are, and how much microplastic is needed to change the temperature of the nesting grounds. So, this summer we are expanding our experiments to explore how different densities and types of microplastic can affect the temperature of nesting grounds.
Regardless of the implications, it is important to consider that any alteration to our natural environment may be detrimental to species that rely on then. The good news is that there are several easy ways to reduce microplastic.
The research was conducted by undergraduate student Valencia Beckwith and Mariana Fuentes.
The sex of reptiles like snapping turtles is determined by the temperature of the nest, with warmer temperatures leading to female births and colder temperatures leading to male babies. Because of this, climate change is projected to increase the number of female turtle births. However, scientists have discovered that other human impacts on the environment are leading to conditions that actually produce more males.
In a study published this month in Biological Conservation, researchers at Virginia Tech, the College of William & Mary and the University of North Texas found that agricultural land use and Mercury (Hg) pollution both increased the number of male relative to female turtles.
Agriculture cools nest temperatures by 2.5 degrees Celsius because crops shade the nest, leading to more male births.
In addition, Mercury passed from mother to offspring also increased the number of males born.
A visual abstract of the study shows that agriculture and Mercury (Hg) passed on from the mother leads to more male relative to female births.Biological Conservation
According to a release republished by Phys.org Tuesday, this is the first study to look at the effects of Mercury on sex determination.
"Our work illustrates how routine human activities can have unexpected side effects for wildlife," study leader and Virginia Tech professor William Hopkins said in the release. "We found strong masculinizing shifts in sex ratios caused by the interaction of two of the most common global changes on the planet, pollution and crop agriculture."
While the research looked specifically at snapping turtles, or Chelydra serpentina, it has implications for other reptiles as well.
Researchers studied turtles in the field along the South River in Virginia, which has a floodplain still contaminated with Mercury due to leaks from a nearby manufacturing plant from 1929 to 1959. They also replicated field temperature and moisture conditions in the lab to verify their results.
According to Hopkins, the results are cause for concern.
"Turtle populations are sensitive to male-biased sex ratios, which could lead to population declines. These findings are particularly alarming because freshwater turtles are one of the most endangered groups of vertebrates on earth," he said.
The results also indicate that climate change is not the only game in town when it comes to impacting other species.
"These unexpected interactions raise new, serious concerns about how wildlife respond to environmental changes due to human activities. They also add an extra layer of complexity to current projections of climate change," Hopkins said.
The good news is that they provide guidelines for conservation. Turtles are attracted to agricultural areas because they prefer nesting sites in sandy or loose soil that get plenty of sun. However, as the eggs incubate from May to September, the plants around the nests grow.
One solution is for farmers to leave different fields uncultivated from year to year to allow the turtle eggs to hatch unimpeded by plant growth.
Governments around the world are waking up to the scourge of plastics on our oceans and its creatures by banning items such as shopping bags and drinking straws. But an often-overlooked form of plastic waste is also a major threat to our seas: "ghost" gear.
A report released Thursday from World Animal Protection highlights that every year 640,000 metric tons of fishing nets are lost or discarded in our oceans each year, trapping and killing countless marine mammals, including endangered whales, seals and turtles. Shallow coral reef habitats also suffer further degradation from the gear, which can take up to 600 years to decompose.
"Worryingly, the level of ghost gear has increased in recent years and it is likely to grow further as fishing efforts intensify all over the world," said Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders of Belgium, a partner of World Animal Protection's Global Ghost Gear Initiative that's aiming for ghost-gear-free seas.
Ghost Gear kills millions of animals a year & causes great suffering to many more. Heartbreakingly, many beautiful… https://t.co/YKgFy1PByw— World Animal Protection UK (@World Animal Protection UK)1519902573.0
Unfortunately, World Animal Protection's report, Ghosts beneath the waves, finds that most of the seafood industry's biggest companies are not doing enough to address deadly fishing gear.
The report ranked 15 seafood giants and their approaches to fishing equipment on a 1 to 5 scale, but found that none of the companies ranked in the top two categories of "setting best practice" or have responsible handling of their fishing gear as "integral to business strategy."
The results also showed that 80 percent of the assessed companies do not have a clear position on ghost fishing gear nor do they even publicly acknowledge the issue.
However, the report exemplified Seattle-based Trident Seafoods for actively working to collect and transport derelict fishing nets from Dutch Harbor, Alaska. These end-of-life fishing nets are removed, bundled and transported to Denmark for recycling by GGGI participant Plastix.
Tuna suppliers Tri Marine is also collaborating with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative to trial and implement best practices for the use of their biodegradable Fish Aggregating Devices.
The report concludes that companies who join the Global Ghost Gear Initiative perform better at addressing ghost gear in their supply chains and contribute to the delivery of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals.
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Conservationists have found a nest of a critically endangered turtle with 16 eggs along the Sre Ambel River system near Preah Angkeo village in Cambodia's Koh Kong province, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced Monday.
This is the first nest of the southern river terrapin discovered this year. Four local community rangers have been hired to guard the nest until the eggs hatch.
First #nest of #Critically #Endangered #Royal Turtle, Cambodia's national #reptile, found in Sre Ambel #river syste… https://t.co/Ij2O9RVwbU— WCS Cambodia (@WCS Cambodia)1519009892.0
Known locally as the "royal turtle," the reptiles got its name because it was historically considered a delicacy reserved for the Cambodian royal family. It was designated as the country's national reptile in 2005.
The turtles were believed to be extinct until its re-discovery in the river in 2000. Only three nests were found in the last two years.
The southern river terrapin is currently listed on IUCN's Red List as critically endangered. The rare species has been "pushed to the brink of extinction largely due to unsustainable harvesting of eggs and adults. Consequently, they exist in small isolated populations and there are only a few wild nesting females left in total," the IUCN said. "Young terrapins are also vulnerable to predators such as water birds and monitor lizards, and to accidental entanglement in fishing gear."
The royal turtle is one of the world's 25 most endangered tortoises and freshwater turtles, the WCS noted.
"Despite success after the species was re-discovered in 2000, the Royal Turtle is still at high risk of extinction. The number of nests found each year is very low, with just three nests in the last two years" said Som Sitha, WCS's technical advisor to the Koh Kong Conservation Project.
"Illegal clearance of flooded forest and illegal fishing puts this species at risk. Everyone can help conserve our national reptile by not purchasing or eating their meat and eggs," he said.
In Hul, an official with the Fisheries Administration and project coordinator, said that the period between January to March is the royal turtle's breeding period, so the team is working hard to search for its nests along the Sre Ambel River system.
"If we find a nest, we will work with the local community to protect it until the eggs hatch and then bring the hatchlings to Koh Kong Reptile Conservation Center where they will be cared for until they are mature and can be released back to the wild," he said.
"We also conduct outreach so that local villagers living around the river are aware of the importance of the royal turtle because it is Cambodia's national reptile and a critically endangered species. Collection of eggs or adults for consumption or sale is illegal in Cambodia," he added.