Microplastics found in the guts of all sea turtle species in new study

Researchers found plastic in the guts of all sea turtle species examined in a new study.

The study published Tuesday in the journal Global Change Biology looked at over 100 turtles from all seven species spanning the Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean.

Researchers found over 800 synthetic particles in the bodies of the turtles and warned that the actual number of particles was likely significantly higher as they only examined each turtle’s gut.

"The ubiquity of the presence of the particles and fibers underlines the gravity of the situation in the oceans and our need to proceed with firm and decisive action on the misuse of plastics," Brendan Godley, senior author of the study and a professor of conservation science at the University of Exeter, told CNN.

The researchers carried out the study by conducting autopsies on the turtles, which had died either by being caught accidentally by fishermen or by being stranded.

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The most common sources of the synthetic material found in all the turtles were found to be tires, marine equipment, cigarettes and clothing.

"This study provides more evidence that we all need to help reduce the amount of plastic waste released to our seas and maintain clean, healthy and productive oceans for future generations," Pennie Lindeque, a senior scientist at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory who worked on the study, told CNN.

David Santillo, who was also part of the study and works in the Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter, told CNN that "the threats to turtles from entanglement in fishing gear and choking on larger pieces of plastic are well known, but the fact that every turtle investigated in this study, across three different oceans, contained microplastics in their guts reveals yet another, previously hidden, dimension to the problem of plastics pollution."

The lead author of the study, Emily Duncan, from the University of Exeter's Centre for Ecology and Conservation, told CNN that the effects of the turtles’ ingestion of particles remain unknown, however, as microplastics usually pass through the turtles’ guts without causing blockages. 

The study comes several weeks after a dead whale was reportedly found in Indonesia with 13 pounds of plastic waste in its stomach.

Both reports arrive amid heightened global concern surrounding plastic pollution and its effects on marine life, with several cities across the U.S. taking steps to cut down on plastic use through bans on single-use straws or charging customers for plastic bags.