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Sea turtles face deadly risk from plastic pollution

London: With plastic pollution increasing, both on land and at sea, all species of marine turtles face the grave risk of losing their population, researchers have warned.

"When turtles ingest plastic, they can suffer intestinal blockage that can result in malnutrition which can in turn lead to poor health, reduced growth rates, lower reproductive output and even death," explained lead researcher Brendan Godley from University of Exeter in England.

Annual global plastic production has grown from 1.5 million tonnes to 299 million tonnes in the last 65 years and as a result plastic pollution is increasing, both on land and at sea, the study noted.

"It is sobering to think that almost every piece of plastic that ever entered the sea is still there; breaking down and forming a vast soup of microplastics that could have frightening long-term repercussions," Godley noted.

The researcher revealed serious knowledge gaps in the diverse and complex pathways in which plastic pollution can harm marine life.

"I was shocked at how little is known about the impacts of plastic on marine turtles," Joint lead study author Sarah Nelms, from University of Exeter's Penryn campus said.

"We know that discarded plastic poses a serious threat to wildlife, but this study shows that more research is urgently needed if we are to understand the scale of the problem," Nelms noted.

The study demonstrated that urgent action is required to better understand this issue and its effects on marine turtles, so that appropriate and effective mitigation policies can be developed.

The researchers are calling for further work to investigate the sub-lethal effects of plastic ingestion and the associated contamination from chemicals relating to the plastic particles.

The research was published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science.

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