Ben Hicks.jpeg

 plastic pollution & sea turtles

Sea turtles are vulnerable to ocean pollution at all stages of life, from eggs to hatchlings to juveniles to adults. Pollutants include things like toxic metals, pcb's, petroleum products, and agricultural and industrial runoff of contaminants such as fertilizers, chemicals, nutrients, and untreated waste. Pollutants may cause immediate harm to sea turtles through direct contact or can build up in tissues over time and lead to immunosuppression resulting in disease and death. 

There are 5 major ocean gyres worldwide. In the Pacific Ocean, the North Pacific Gyre is home to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, a large area that is approximately the size of Texas with debris extending 20 feet (6 meters) down into the water column. It’s estimated that this “plastic island” contains 3.5 million tons of trash and could double in size in the next 5 years. Researchers have also estimated that for every 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of plankton in this area, there is 13.2 pounds (6 kilograms) of plastic. Common marine debris items includes things like cigarette butts, cans, plastic bags and bottles, styrofoam, balloons, lighters, and toothbrushes. Discarded or lost fishing gear such as lines, nets and buoys are especially dangerous to sea life. 


sample social media posts

Plastic affects sea turtles throughout their life. Nesting turtles & hatchlings have to crawl through trash on the beach, turtles often confuse bags in the water for jellyfish and eat them, and they can get caught in plastic floating in the ocean. Learn more:  #SeaTurtleWeek

Every minute, one garbage truck’s worth of plastic is dumped into our oceans. All this plastic poses a huge risk to turtles who may ingest or become entangled in plastic. Plastics also release toxic chemicals when they are in the ocean which can poison wild animals. #SeaTurtleWeek via @hsiglobal

Pollution is a serious problem for all life globally, and marine debris in particular has proven to be an extremely persistent issue for animals like sea turtles. There are many ways to prevent man-made materials from becoming pollution in the environment, but another fantastic way to contribute is to clean a local beach! The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation (RFMRP) hosts beach clean-ups year round at 5 different beaches around Long Island, NY, and this program has removed more than 8,100 pounds of trash since it began in 2016! Sign up to help us clean a beach near you here:

Photo: Ben J. Hicks