Pollution and its impact on the death of a green sea turtle near Crab Island.
Thurs. Jun. 1, 2023 by Kennady Brinley, ECWR Stranding Coordinator
The death of a green sea turtle found near Crab Island in Destin, FL indicates plastic pollution isn’t the only type of pollution impacting our marine life.
The green sea turtle was found February 12th near Dewey Destin’s, just Northeast of Crab Island, bearing a heavy and devastating weight she should’ve never had to carry. The sea turtle was likely searching for food and became lodged in this lawn chair, ultimately leading to her death as the object impeded her ability to surface for air and hunt for food. Its body was taken to the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge (ECWR) for a post-mortem examination.
According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) information, green sea turtles are unique among sea turtles in that they are herbivores, eating mostly seagrasses and algae. This diet is what gives their fat a greenish color (not their shells), which is where their name comes from. This species of sea turtle is found throughout the world’s oceans. The global population of these turtles has decreased historically as a result of human exploitation for their fat, meat and eggs.
After the Refuge responded to the stranding, a post-mortem external exam was conducted at the ECWR Necropsy Lab. The external examination yielded observations suggesting this turtle was healthy prior to becoming trapped and likely drowned.
According to ECWR, “This stranding event highlights that pollution is pervasive and it’s not just plastic pollution that impacts our marine life.” The ever-increasing pollution of marine habitats both nearshore and offshore poses a threat to all sea turtles and impacts the environments in which they live. Green sea turtles may ingest marine debris such as fishing line, balloons, plastic bags, floating tar or oil, and other materials discarded by humans which they can mistake for food. They may also become entangled in marine debris, including lost or discarded fishing gear, and can be killed or sustain serious injuries.
“A lot of our sea turtle recoveries indicate vessel strikes or entanglement in fishing gear,” said ECWR’s Stranding Coordinator, Kennady Brinley. “This was something we’ve never seen before and it was definitely a tough recovery for our team. It is a harsh reminder of how essential it is to leave no trace when visiting our beautiful beaches and being mindful of the items in your yards if you live along our coastal waterways.” We know how important the local marine life is to our community, so we hope you all can understand why we wanted to share this story and the images from the event.