Plastic Is Killing Sea Turtles

Photo: Neil Osborne

Photo: Neil Osborne

If there is a poster species for the worldwide epidemic of plastic pollution, it’s sea turtles. The mothers swim through islands of plastic on their migrations and crawl through plastic to find their spots to nest on beaches. Nests are impacted by toxic microplastic particles and hatchlings crawl back through macroplastic on their way to the water. They confuse plastic bags and balloons for their favorite food, jellyfish. Straws get stuck in their noses and plastic spoons stuck in their throat. Even a few tiny pieces of plastic can end a small turtle’s life. They get caught in six pack rings and ghost fishing gear. It’s inescapable.

SEE Turtles is launching a new campaign to reduce plastic in sea turtle habitats in ways that support conservation efforts by partner organizations. We are excited to be partnering with Travelers Against Plastic (TAP) to manage this campaign that works with dozens of tour operators around the world. Through TAP and our social media platforms, we will advocate for eliminating single use plastic, both on a global scale and through individual actions. We will also partner with eco-friendly companies to produce and promote products made from ocean plastic.

Travelers Against Plastic is a leader in the effort to eliminate plastic waste in the travel industry. A study by TAP and the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) showed that 60 percent of adventure travel operators, companies who specialize in visiting remote locations and whose livelihoods depend on a clean environment, still use single use plastic bottles on their tours. This translates to nearly 7 million bottles from this industry alone, most of which end up in landfills since many developing countries don’t offer recycling programs. TAP and SEE Turtles are now teaming up to help travel businesses educate their clients about this problem and offering solutions to reduce the need for disposable plastic while traveling.  

As an organization working to protect endangered sea turtles, SEE Turtles was proud to be TAP’s first Gold Sponsor a few years ago. We put an emphasis on reducing as much as possible the use of plastic on our trips by providing clean filtered water for all travelers and encourage them to bring reusable water bottles, as well as doing beach cleanups on turtle nesting beaches around Latin America.

There are many ways that travelers and tourism businesses can help sea turtles by reducing plastic use and cleaning up plastic when they see it:

Banner photo: Ben Hicks

A version of this post was previously published on the Travelers Against Plastic blog.