There are many species of turtle including loggerheads, green sea, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, flatback and Olive ridley. Many are ‘ocean lawnmowers’ that eat seagrass, but giant leatherback turtles love searching for jellyfish in colder waters. But a third of all sea turtles now have plastic in their stomach, which is affecting their swims back to the beaches where they were born (to give birth).
- Shane Gross’ photograph of a dead turtle trapped in fishing net, has brought the issue to worldwide attention. After taking the photo, he and his girlfriend tried to bury the sea turtle in the sand, to show respect. He hopes his award-winning photograph will raise awareness, as does Jordi Chias (his photographed turtle was freed from the net before it was too late, in order to swim away).
- Give up plastic straws. This video of a marine biologist removing a plastic straw from a turtle went viral a few years ago, and was the beginning of the end for plastic straws. The turtle was okay in the end – but distressed. And nobody knew if the turtle ever came across another straw, after release.
- Never release balloons as 70% land in the sea. Latex balloons explode way before biodegrading, and form a jellyfish’ shape that leatherback turtles eat, as it’s their favourite food. If you use balloons, then choose ones with biodegradable string, only use them indoors, pop securely and bin after use. Many councils now ban balloon releases.
- If you eat fish, only choose companies that guarantee no by-catch (LED nets that light up nets so fishermen can see them and turtle excluder devices help, but leatherbacks are too big to escape). ASDA admits some of best-selling fish items kill by-catch creatures including turtles. They have no yet joined Ocean Disclosure Project, which is helping to stop by-catch. Shrimp trawlers often dredge the ocean bottom, trapping sea turtles. Try some plant-based alternatives.
- LED nets (which light up nets so fishermen can see them) and turtle excluder devices help, but they don’t work for all turtles (leatherbacks are too big to escape).
- Shrimp trawlers often dredge the entire ocean bottom, trapping sea turtles. If you eat shrimp, look for plant-based alternatives.
Milman Island is a beautiful tropical island with no human inhabitants near Australia, in the Pacific Ocean. With white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, it should be a paradise for the only creatures that live there – sea turtles. But one campaigner visited to find a horrendous amount of plastic and other rubbish that had washed up on the shores. She detailed in her survey:
- A dishwashing machine cover
- Gas tanks
- Windshield wipers
- Toy cars
- Pieces of polystyrene foam (some had tiny bite marks, indicating that the sea turtles had tried to eat it)
- A bedpan
- Industrial rubber
- Large fishing nets
- Light bulbs
- Shards of plastic
- Cigarette lighters