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Sargasso sea turtles threatened by high levels of microplastic

Video Credit: Reuters Studio - Duration: 02:01s - Published
Sargasso sea turtles threatened by high levels of microplastic

Sargasso sea turtles threatened by high levels of microplastic

Scientists studying the scale and impact of plastic pollution on wildlife in the Sargasso Sea have found "extreme concentrations" of microplastic, which they worry will threaten sea turtles and other marine species that live there.

Havovi Cooper has more.

The Sargasso Sea: a unique marine environment in the North Atlantic Ocean.

The region is known for it's huge accumulations of brown Sargassum seaweed which provide food and shelter for a wealth of marine species, including sea turtles.

But lurking within this weed are microplastic particles, which scientists, like Alexandra Gulick, say are consumed by sea turtles and enter the foodchain .

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ALEXANDRA GULICK, MARINE ECOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA SAYING: "And so what we're worried about is that these habitats are not only valuable for their development but plastics could also be threatening that development and that can be done in a couple of ways, through direct ingestion or though entanglement." The microplastics are ending up in the weed because the Sargasso Sea has a whirlpool-like circular ocean current that draws in and traps debris from Africa, Europe and North America.

Any plastic pollution sucked in is continuously broken by the churning current until it becomes microplastic; small enough to be ingested by marine life.

NATSOT: "Temperature 30.2.

Oh there's a fishy!" The microplastics research is part of a project by scientists from the University of Florida, who are working with Greenpeace to conduct a study of the Sargassum seaweed to find out how important it is for the survival of vulnerable sealife, especially baby sea turtles.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ALEXANDRA GULICK, MARINE ECOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA SAYING: "Our idea here is that Sargassum can possibly offer a thermal advantage which could help younger sea turtles grow up faster.

So that's really what we're testing out here.

We're going to compare the temperature in open water versus in a sargassum mat where turtles are known to live for the first at least 5 to 10 years of their lives." The research is critical - as nearly all seven species of sea turtles are currently classified as endangered by the World Wildlife Fund; with habitat destruction and poaching among reasons for their decline.




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