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Aug 09, 2013 09:18 AM EDT

Endangered Turtles Eating More Plastic than Ever, Study

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Endangered green and leatherback turtles are swallowing more man-made debris than ever before, according to a global study conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland. The study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, found that 80 percent of waste is generated from land sources.

The study stated that the majestic turtles are eating lethal plastic products than any other form of debris.

"Our research revealed that young ocean-going turtles were more likely to eat plastic than their older, coastal-dwelling relatives," said Qamar Schuyler from the University of Queensland, who led the study.

"We found that for green sea turtles, the likelihood that a sea turtle has ingested debris has nearly doubled in the last 25 years," said Schuyler. "Specifically for green turtles, it does appear that they are eating a lot more debris than they used to."

Researchers from the School of Biological Sciences and CSIRO's Wealth from Oceans Flagship analyzed data collected across the globe since the late 1980s.

According to Global Post, the study revealed that six of the world's seven species of sea turtles have been found to ingest debris and all six of them are listed globally vulnerable or endangered.

"Results from this global analysis indicate oceanic leatherback turtles and green turtles are at the greatest risk of being killed or harmed from ingested marine debris," Schuyler said.

Surprisingly, Schuyler also discovered that stranded turtles in areas with high concentrations of marine debris were not found to ingest debris.

"Amazingly, turtles found adjacent to the heavily populated New York city area showed little or no evidence of debris ingestion, while all of the turtles found near an undeveloped area of southern Brazil had eaten debris," Schuyler said.

"This means conducting coastal cleanups is not the single answer to the problem of debris ingestion for local sea turtle populations, although it is an important step in preventing marine debris input into the ocean. To reduce this risk, man-made debris must be managed at a global level, from the manufactures through to the consumers - before debris reaches the ocean," Schuyler said.

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