Born Free USA Blog
Earlier this week the BBC reported that one-third of loggerhead turtles recovered recently from the Adriatic Sea had plastic in their intestines. The presence of such an undissolvable substance in the digestive system can be fatal, and probably was the primary cause of death for some of the shell-encased reptiles.
(The fact that these 54 turtles or their carcasses had been snagged and discarded by fishing vessels is a bit off-topic, but also troubling.)
The Adriatic, tucked between Italy and Croatia north of the Mediterranean Sea, has some 4 million permanent residents scattered along its shoreline and attracts another 18 million tourists during the summer. Much of the trash those people produce ends up floating on the Adriatic, including plastics in the form of water bottles, food wrappers and whatnot. Loggerheads, according to the BBC, are omnivores who in their youth feed on the surface along the shallow Adriatic shores to bulk up for adult-life eating in deeper waters.
“In the future we must think more carefully what we put in the sea,” one researcher said.
That’s a very casual, low-voltage statement. Water pollution is a growing catastrophe not just for marine creatures but for humans as well. The fact swimming is banned or discouraged off so many public beaches is just tiny one example in just one of many aspects of how sullied water impacts us.
Then there’s the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Human-produced trash, in varying forms of decay and degrees of toxicity, in concentrations loose and dense, small and large, floats about on the Pacific Ocean — to fatal effect for much marine life.
“You see these quotes that it’s the size of Texas, then it’s the size of France, and I even heard one description of it as a continent,” Holly Bamford, director of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program, said earlier this year.
Attempts to pinpoint whether the Pacific aqua-dump is as big as Texas or France or even South America feel like entertainment. Everybody enjoys a “How about that!” moment, but what we really need is a “What we are going to do about this” long-term approach. We can start by reducing consumption, cleaning up after ourselves more carefully — and keeping in mind that what we do can impact animals such as loggerhead turtles.