Single-Use Plastic... Turtle-y Not Cool

April 6, 2018

Marine plastic pollution has been in the media a lot lately, but this isn't a recent issue.


Plastic is useful, it's cheap and it's durable - we can't lead a 100% plastic free modern life. As much as we dislike the idea, we need plastic for a multitude of things, notably  for essential medical tools like heart valves, disposable sterile syringes and blood bags. 


Of course, if we all go back to basics and become tent-dwelling hunter gatherers (like my parents do in the warmer months), our relationship with plastic would be very different - but this is unrealistic. 


What can we do? Well - we can reduce our use of the unnecessary single-use plastics: #Refill a reusable water bottle, Refuse plastic straws, coffee cups, and cutlery, and Recycle any waste you do generate.


But why should we? Our waste is poisoning our earth and spilling into our oceans, threatening every living thing in the big blue, from microscopic plankton to the largest animal to ever live: the Blue Whale. 

Lets bring it back to turtles...

We have all seen the iconic video of the straw in the turtle's nose (if you haven't, check it out),

 and we may think this is an issue we can distance ourselves from here in the UK - but we all have a responsibility! Ocean currents are marvellous things that help migratory species like the Leatherback Turtle make crazy journeys across the world, but this means plastic can travel on these currents too, and anything dropped here in the UK could travel all over the globe causing immeasurable damage. Thankfully, I have never come across a turtle with a straw so horrifically imbedded in their nostril - and one can only hope that this is a rare occurrence, that will only become more and more unlikely as we take the pledge to refuse plastic straws. 


Marine turtles are vulnerable to ingestion, PCB accumulation and entanglement.


And now a turtle tale of my own.

Tina the Tangled Turtle 


This is a moment that will remain etched into my memory for the rest of my life, and reminds me why its worth carrying on, even when I feel so overwhelmed by the monumental lifelong task of tackling plastic pollution, and I feel the tide is always pushing against me. 


I lay watching Tina for hours, it isn't unusual that a Green Turtle would take what seems like an eternity to dig the perfect nest, but something was not quite right. It's hard to explain how I knew, but after two months of laying belly down in the sand every night observing these animals do their thing, one develops 'turtle-y senses'. She had been trying to dig her egg chamber for a while now, I couldn't hear any rock scraping going on, she'd picked a nice spot - so why was she not laying yet? 


This is where the trusty army crawl technique becomes useful, I turned my radio volume right down and embarked on a very sandy shuffle to check out what was going on. It became apparent that she had an entangled back flipper, the fishing rope was cutting down to the bone and she couldn't manoeuvre her flipper in the way she needed to, to dig her nest. 

We never disturb a turtle unless absolutely necessary, and in this case, she would've lost that flipper if we didn't do something. 


With a pen knife and a great deal of difficulty, we removed the rope and Tina headed back out to sea. We hoped the salt water would work its magic and she would return. 


The rest of that night shift was a hard one for me, I felt the plastic tide had caught up with me. I felt small, how can one person like me ever make a true difference? 





Well, those of you who know me will say if there's one word that sums me up it's 'resilient'... some might say relentless. You have to pick yourself up and crack on - there's no time for feeling sorry for yourself. 


Two weeks later, Tina returned to Alagadi. It took her a little while, but she dug her nest and laid her clutch, and I was lucky enough to witness it. I had made a difference, one small person like me was responsible for one hundred more eggs being laid, which turned into one hundred more beautiful little hatchlings. Tina was on the mend, and so was I.

So, I hope I haven't depressed you too much. Really, after all of that, what I want to say is that you can make a difference wherever you are and however insignificant you feel your actions may be. 


Tina thanks you.



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