Sea turtles dying from man-made pollution, institute says

Sea turtles dying from man-made pollution, institute says

Already this year, 52 dead Kemp's ridley sea turtles have been collected by marine biologists in Gulfport.

They say there's a simple solution to the main reason they are dying, and it's one you can do at home and at work.

It's another day of quick medical attention to save the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle. Too often veterinarians at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport are not fighting Mother Nature, they are fighting the habits of mankind.

Just this weekend at a beach clean up, 4,000 pounds of trash was removed from Elmer's Island in south Jefferson Parish.

"We are dumping plastics into the Gulf and all around the world," Dr. Debra Moore, a veterinarian at IMMS, said

The images and X-rays are disturbing. Turtles can mistake a plastic bag for a jelly fish meal.

"We had a sea turtle that died with a plastic bag stuck in its nose," Dr. Moby Solangi, the President and Executive Director of IMMS, said.

"Plastics have only been around for 50 to 70 years, so they have not evolved to know the difference between them," Dr. Moore said of sea turtles.

To make matters worse, the plastics absorb the toxins from pesticides and insecticides coming down the river from 31 states and two Canadian provinces. Then they break down into micro plastics and enter our food chain beginning with the smallest of sea life eating them.

"Our food, our clothing has plastic in it. It's dumped accidentally into the oceans, or into our washing machines will break down those fibers and then that goes in to our water system. And then our sewage is dumped out into the Gulf," said Dr. Moore.

The pollution of plastic, nets, Styrofoam, cans and other discarded items coming from all the people and rivers north of the Gulf can take years or even centuries to decompose. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of seabirds have plastics in them.

"Straws and coffee stirrers are one of the number one problems that are out there in the oceans," said Dr. Moore.

Each year anywhere from 30 to 200 sea turtles come into IMMS needing medical treatment. The biologists say cities need a comprehensive approach to getting rid of waste and opening spillways so fresh water won't inundate the Gulf. But each person at home can make a difference and it's as simple as recycling.

"That is our second job at IMMS; is to make better stewards of our children educate them," Dr. Solangi of the visitor program at the center, said. 

As Eyewitness News reported earlier this month, the biologists are also seeing marine life dying and affected by the largest dead zone ever reported in the Gulf.

For more on IMMS in Gulfport click here

For more on the island clean up in Louisiana click here

© 2017 WWL-TV


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