A loggerhead sea turtle trapped in an abandoned fishing net


© Jordi Chias / Nature Picture Library


Every year, 570,000 tonnes of plastic are abandoned in the Mediterranean Sea, which accounts for just 1% of the world’s water. It’s as if a truck dumped a full load of waste into the sea every 20 minutes, or as if 33,000 plastic bottles were thrown into the sea every single minute.
Plastic waste and fishing nets (whether lost or abandoned) pose a serious threat to thousands of animals in the marine ecosystem that risk becoming trapped and suffocating, or that could inadvertently ingest small plastic fragments, mistaking them for prey.
A study published in March 2020 by a team of American researchers sought to offer clearer answers to why loggerhead sea turtles are so attracted to plastics in the sea. They found that these reptiles are fooled not only by their sight but above all by their sense of smell. In water, plastic waste can become covered with algae, bacteria and other micro-organisms in a matter of weeks. This plant matter releases substances that attract marine organisms in search of food, and misleads them. The turtles are drawn by the smell of delicious food that actually isn’t food and end up in very polluted areas of the sea where they swallow pieces of plastic believing they are ingesting natural prey. This inevitably kills them.
It’s not easy to change this situation, but we can each do our own small part through more responsible behaviour to protect aquatic animals by preventing plastic from ending up in the seas.

Cristina Boaretto