Single-use straws, forks, and plastic bags are just a few of the many items that are harming sea turtles. And unfortunately sea turtles are just one of the numerous species being affected by our plastic trash.
On land, litter can trap nesting females or emerging hatchlings as well as impacting on the crucial temperatures of turtle eggs as they are incubating under the surface of shoreline sediments. If newborn sea turtles are threatened, endangered populations may not be able to rebound.
In the ocean, entanglement in marine debris can lead to lacerations, trouble swimming, and ultimately death from drowning or not being able to perform basic survival tasks. Ingestion, either accidentally or because plastic pieces resemble fish eggs and plastic bags resemble jellyfish, can lead to intestinal damage or starvation. If the debris doesn't pass through their digestive tract they can constantly feel full. They can also die due to the toxic chemicals that are inherent to the plastic, or to toxins that are absorbed during the plastic's journey through the ocean.
According to The Sea Turtle Conservancy "Many turtles, that have been killed by consuming debris, had plastic bags or fishing line in their stomachs, some as small as half of a fingernail. Sea turtles are especially susceptible to the effects of consuming marine debris due to their bodies' own structure. They have downward facing spines in their throats which prevent the possibility of regurgitation. The plastics get trapped in their stomach, which prevents them from properly swallowing food. Also, sea turtles can float as a result of trapped gas caused by harmful decomposition of marine debris inside their body. The gases cause the turtle to float, which leads to starvation or makes them an easy target for predators."
Single-use plastic bags are one of the many forms of plastic pollution that threatens wildlife and their ecosystems. Californians alone use between 13 and 20 billion of these bags every year, but only 5 percent are recycled. CAW worked hard on passing SB 270; legislation to ban the use of single-use plastic bags in California. This legislation however, like our oceans, is under attack by plastic polluters. Out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers paid millions to get a referendum put on the November 2016 ballot for voters to decide the bag ban's fate.
What can you do to help? Lead by example and bring your own bags to the store. If you don't already live under a bag ban, call or write your city council members and tell them you want one for where you live. And spread the word to vote YES in November 2016 to protect not only California's bag ban, but all of the sea turtles and the rest of the marine life we're affecting.
Learn more about plastic bag pollution here.
Learn more about the referendum and sign up for e-mail alerts here.
Endorse the campaign to protect California's ban on single-use plastic bags here.