An alarming amount of litter and tar is collecting in the frontal
zones where baby sea turtles spend the early years of their lives.
In May 2002, FWRI research scientist Blair Witherington was
interviewed by Kevin Pierce of The Florida Environment, a
radio feature that is broadcast over a network of Florida radio
stations. He talked about his travels researching neonate
loggerheads off the east coast of Florida and the surprising amount
of litter and tar he encountered in the Gulf Stream habitats of the
According to Witherington's recent paper, "Ecology
of neonate loggerhead turtles inhabiting lines of downwelling near
a Gulf Stream front," gastric-esophageal lavages performed by
Witherington and his research team revealed plastic in 15 percent
of the turtles and tar in 20 percent of the turtles.
Some of the turtles had swallowed enough tar to gum their mouths
This health risk occurs due to the fact that baby sea turtles
spend the first years of their lives in floating seagrass islands
that accumulate in frontal zones near the Gulf Stream. These zones
collect more than the nutrients turtles need to grow.
Decreasing the amount of tar and trash
invading ocean habitats is not a problem that has an easy solution.
International waters mean international trash. Witherington says he
hopes the baby sea turtle can serve as a "poster child" of sorts to
demonstrate the importance of cutting back on the amount of litter
contaminating ocean habitats.
You can learn more:
Listen to Blair Witherington's radio interview at the Florida
Environment Web site.
Read more about Blair Witherington's neonate studies in Researching
the First Years of a Turtle's Life."