Monday, March 16, 2009

Garbage, garbage everywhere ...

ResearchBlogging.orgI don't know, I guess I'm a sucker for poor defenseless animals, and I guess I believe that we, as humans, should hold ourselves to a higher accountability when it comes to being proper stewards of our great planet Earth. So when I come across manuscripts like this one ... damn it, it pisses me off! Here is the abstract:
The leatherback, Dermochelys coriacea, is a large sea turtle that feeds primarily on jellyfish. Floating plastic garbage could be mistaken for such prey. Autopsy records of 408 leatherback turtles, spanning 123 years (1885–2007), were studied for the presence or absence of plastic in the GI tract. Plastic was reported in 34% of these cases. If only cases from our first report (1968) of plastic were considered, the figure was 37%. Blockage of the gut by plastic was mentioned in some accounts. These findings are discussed in the context of removal of top predators from poorly understood food chains.
Check out the following figure ...Whiskey Tango Foxtrot folks! Look at 1950 and on. That's all us ... humans ... contributing to these incident rates. What part of "Do not throw your trash in the ocean" can't people seem to understand? The authors have a pretty sobering point as well when they state:
Looking further ahead, we do not know what impact, if any, an increased demand for jellyfish by Asian markets could have on leatherback turtles. It has been speculated that leatherbacks off the coast of France take in more plastic in cooler months when jellyfish are scarcer. If it is correct that commercial harvests of jellyfish reduce the availability of this prey item, will ingestion of plastic by leatherbacks increase?
One can only hope not.

Mrosovsky, N., Ryan, G., & James, M. (2009). Leatherback turtles: The menace of plastic Marine Pollution Bulletin, 58 (2), 287-289 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2008.10.018

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