Littering causes an almost immediate discomfort to Sea Turtles that come in contact with trash, generating different types of afflictions, ending in the immunosuppression that inevitably results in illnesses and subsequent death.
The degradation of the habitat of these animals is a constant threat and in general, occurs in large areas. Sea Turtles have to deal with the usual pollution risks. But that’s not all, their natural habitat coincides with the area in which more oil exploitation and production is carried out, that is, on the high seas.
Pollution from petroleum and its derivatives can be caused by the intentional or unintentional discharge from the ships, as well as the transportation of products, usual spills, and oil from land-based sources that run off into the ocean.
Bear in mind that offshore oil spills tend to be largely concentrated in the convergence zones where great water currents meet, and these are specifically the most important areas for the growth and development of the youngest sea turtles.
Oil spills on the high seas also reach the coastal areas, affecting all the animals that are found there, and in particular affecting the nests of sea turtles and females laying eggs or offspring that can be found there on the coast.
Oil wreaks havoc in many ways, one of the worse ways is that the crude oil, or tar, contaminate the food that marine species eat. When the crude oil is floating in the water, tar balls form and then float on the water, and many newborn sea turtles die from ingesting these tarballs.
The Widespread of Fibropapillomas
Fibropapilloma is a condition that generates tumors in the shape of cauliflower in the external soft part of the animal and its internal organs. It is unknown exactly what causes fibropapilloma in Sea Turtles, but researchers have found that it is probably due to ocean pollution.
As these tumors are concentrated in the soft areas of their bodies, they usually appear in the head of the animals. If they are located near the eyes, they can obscure their vision and cause blindness, while those located near the mouth, seriously affect the breathing and feeding systems of the turtles.
Fibropapilloma also slows sea turtles down, turning them into victims even more vulnerable to predation or to collisions with boats. The exact cause of Fibropapilloma and how it is transmitted continues to be investigated, but it is presumed due to scientific speculation that the cause is the contaminants spilled on the oceans.
Plastic, The Transparent Killer
As soon as a sea turtle ingests a piece of plastic, its probability of dying increases by 20%, according to new research published in journals and scientific reports. Each additional piece of ingested plastic increases the likelihood of death, so much, so that after they ingest the fourteenth piece of plastic, a turtle has a 52% chance of dying.
It is an alarming finding because there are trillions of plastic pieces in the world’s oceans. Around 13 million tons of new plastic waste is added to that figure annually, and Sea Turtles today ingest twice as much plastic than they did 25 years ago.