Media Release


Queensland Flood Rubbish Threatens Marine Turtles with Painful Death



The massive amount of rubbish dumped into the ocean during the Queensland floods has increased the risk to the marine turtles of the Queensland coast, according to the head of the Earthwatch Institute (Australia) funded 'Turtles in Trouble' research project.


Speaking of the eve of Clean Up Australia Day and the start of Sea Week, Dr Kathy Townsend, University of Queensland who heads up the project, now in its third year, said "The research so far has found that up to 35% of the sea turtles have died due to marine rubbish, through a combination of ingestion and/or entanglement."



Turtle gut rubbish from the large intestine of a marine turtle. 


It was reported earlier this week on the Turtles in Trouble Facebook page, a 14 cm tiny baby flat back turtle was found to have over 100 pieces of plastic in its stomach.

The Earthwatch program 'Turtles in Trouble' is focused on protecting Queensland's turtles for generations to come. Turtles have been found to have eaten most plastic items, but the most common items eaten are plastic bags and hard broken down plastics.

Dr Townsend said turtles are often more susceptible than other marine animals to marine rubbish as they do not have the ability to regurgitate. Once a turtle ingests this type of rubbish the gut becomes paralysed and gases build up in the turtle's stomach, which cause it to float and make it unable to dive for food. It's a slow, painful death.

"The Queensland floods have now added dramatically to the pollution issue and we now face escalating issues of protecting this rare species of marine turtles, not only against existing marine rubbish, but also from the impact of silt, chemicals on seagrass and hard rubbish items swept into the sea during the floods".

"The floods have also impacted on the research program itself with two teams of volunteers from Brisbane, scheduled to take part in the project, being delayed whilst they deal with their own flood related problems."

Andy Donnelly, Science Director of Earthwatch said, "the large amount of rubbish flushed into the marine environment by the floods meant it was critical to enlist volunteers to take part in the 'Turtle in Trouble' program as soon as possible to assess the floods short term and long term impact."

To join a Turtles in Trouble research project for one day call call Earthwatch on (03) 9682 6828 or visit

Media Enquiries:
Ron Smith, Corporate Media Communications, Earthwatch Institute (Australia) - Mobile: 0417 329 201