The first research results on plastics in sea turtles in Greece
Since 2016, ARCHELON has been involved in related research by the Hellenic Center for Marine Research (HCMR) by providing samples from sea turtles that died at the Rescue Centre in Glyfada. As the first results of the research are heading for publication Dr. Eleni Kaberi, the project leader, gave us more information.
Plastics were found in more than 70% of the 36 turtles analyzed. In total, more than 250 plastic pieces were recorded, most of which were found in young individuals. The average number of plastics per turtle was 11 pieces. These were fishing lines, pieces of plastic bags of various uses and "microplastic" pieces of hard plastic and were found both in the stomach and the intestine of the turtles.
It was the first time the HCMR team carried out analysis of the stomach content of a large organism for plastic detection. The percentage of turtles found with plastics in their stomach in Greece (frequency of occurrence) is about the same as in the western and central Mediterranean and well above other eastern and southern Mediterranean countries such as Turkey and Tunisia. The percentage found in a study for Cyprus was much higher than that found in Greece.
This research effort by HCMR will certainly continue until the end of 2020 and is funded by European programs*. The sample collection network was set up with the help of MEDASSET, Prof. A. Komnenou of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the ARCHELON Sea Turtle Rescue Centre in Glyfada. Veterinarians from all over Greece participate in this study.
The research relates to the implementation of Marine Strategy Framework Directive of the European Union for the reduction of marine litter. In Italy, Spain, France and other European Union countries this indicator has been included in national legislation, but not yet in Greece.
Anthropogenic litter is found in all marine habitats, from beaches to the most remote parts of the oceans. Of all types of marine litter, plastics are the most problematic and the largest in quantity. Plastics can enter the food chain when they are accidentally consumed by marine organisms and the problem is that plastics can release dangerous chemicals. Although ingestion of plastic fragments by marine organisms is more common in large oceans, plastics have been found in the digestive tracts of several organisms in the Mediterranean Sea.
* The study has been funded by the MEDSEALITTER program (INTERREG-MED, 2016-2019), INDICIT (DG ENV -EU Environmental Directorate- 2018-2019) and the current INDICIT II (DG ENV, 2019-2020).
Information: Eirini Kasimati, ARCHELON Rescue Network and Rehabilitation Officer, tel: +30 6941 511 511, +30 210 8944 444, e-mail: email@example.com.