Hor­rific tur­tle deaths from in­gest­ing plas­tic

Rodney Times - - HEALTH - GED CANN

A third of tur­tles found dead on New Zealand beaches have swal­lowed plas­tic, an ex­pert says, and sin­gle-use shop­ping bags are the most com­mon cul­prit.

Dan Godoy, of Massey Univer­sity’s Coastal-Ma­rine Re­search Group, said the tur­tles’ in­testi­nal tract got blocked when they mis­took soft plas­tics for jel­ly­fish, re­sult­ing in ‘‘hor­rific’’ deaths.

‘‘They can’t di­gest food, and they ba­si­cally slowly die.

‘‘In the tur­tles that I’ve looked at, and [from] other stud­ies around the world, it’s the soft, white, and translu­cent plas­tics items – so plas­tic bags par­tic­u­larly – that are con­sumed in a higher pro­por­tion than other items.’’

The Govern­ment has been fac­ing mount­ing pres­sure from lo­cal bod­ies, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups, and school­child­ren to take ac­tion against the more than a bil­lion plas­tic bags Ki­wis dis­card an­nu­ally. So far there’s been no real move­ment on the prob­lem.

Godoy had stud­ied the bod­ies of roughly 80 stranded tur­tles, and said of those with plas­tic in their stom­achs, about half had died as a di­rect re­sult.

‘‘Ma­rine tur­tles aren’t the only ones, we are see­ing this in a huge range of species – seabirds, even whales,’’ he said.

Two-thirds of the coun­try’s may­ors have now signed an open let­ter re­quest­ing cen­tral govern­ment im­pose a manda­tory levy on plas­tic bags, or step aside and al­low lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to pick up the reins.

Last week, two stu­dents from Dunedin’s Caris­brook School flew to Wellington to present a pe­ti­tion, signed by 3600 peo­ple, call­ing for a ban. Mean­while, a sec­ond pe­ti­tion from a group of Wellington stu­dents call­ing for a manda­tory levy has gar­nered more than 10,400 sig­na­tures.

KingsWay School stu­dents have started the One Bag at a Time ini­tia­tive to ed­u­cate a green cul­ture on the HIbis­cus Coast around plas­tic bag use. The group is also call­ing for a levy, and ex­plor­ing the use of an ac­cred­i­ta­tion for busi­nesses us­ing greener op­tions.

Godoy said the ar­gu­ment he had heard from En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Nick Smith in the past, that ac­tion was not needed be­cause plas­tic bags made up only a small per­cent­age of the waste stream, failed to look at the facts, or the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of plas­tic bags.

Around the world stud­ies found be­tween 10 and 100 per cent of stranded tur­tles had plas­tic in their stom­achs, he said.

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