Media Release


Research Shows Marine Rubbish Impacts 36% of Turtles



New research from the Earthwatch program 'Turtles in Trouble' focused on turtles sourced from the eastern areas of Moreton Bay, being released on the eve of World Ocean Day, shows that 36% of marine turtles are impacted by marine rubbish with soft plastic being a major contributor.


Speaking before the release of the latest research findings, marine scientist Dr Kathy Townsend, The University of Queensland said the results of Earthwatch Australia's 'Turtles in Trouble' Research Project has exposed that the impact of marine rubbish on the death of turtles was over 17 times higher than the 2% as previously suggested.

Dr Kathy Townsend

Dr Townsend said "Turtles have been found to have eaten most plastic items, but the most common items eaten are soft plastics such as plastic bags and lolly wrappers and pieces of hard broken down plastic.

"The ratio of soft plastics - plastic bags, bait bags and cling film, to hard plastics found in turtle gut contents compared to the ratio found in the environment was significantly higher. This suggests that turtles do indeed select soft plastics as food as has been suggested anecdotally."

Dr Townsend said the research consolidates the ongoing and urgent need for the community to have a zero tolerance to allowing plastic bags and other rubbish to escape into the marine environment via creeks, rivers and activity on beaches.

Richard Gilmore, Executive Director of Earthwatch Australia said the new research and work of Dr Townsend highlighted the need for the community to have a wider awareness of the impact of marine rubbish with the biggest challenges focused on where Australia's capital cities, country and regional population centres are located on the coast.

"Earthwatch is launching a major social networking program 'Operation Wave' utilising Twitter and Facebook to focus the attention on maintaining healthy oceans and providing information on the major role oceans play locally and internationally in the health, economic and food networks", said Mr Gilmore.

  • More than 90% of this habitat exists in the deep sea known as the abyss. Less than 10% of this living space has been explored by humans
  • One in four people rely on the oceans for their primary source of protein.

Media Enquiries:
Ron Smith, Corporate Media Communications, Earthwath Australia - Mobile: 0417 329 201

Operation Wave Ocean Facts

  • The oceans occupy nearly 71% of our planet's surface or about 362 million sq km.

  • The average depth of the ocean is 3,720 m

  • The deepest point in the ocean is 11,033 m BSL in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific.

  • The top ten feet of the ocean hold as much heat as our entire atmosphere.

  • The average depth of the ocean is more than 2.5 miles.

    The ocean provides:

  • More than 97% of our planet's water.

  • 99% of the Earth's living space- the largest space in our universe known to be inhabited by living organisms

  • More than 90% of this habitat exists in the deep sea known as the abyss. Less than 10% of this living space has been explored by humans.

  • Up to two-thirds of the air we breathe comes from life in the oceans.

    We rely on the ocean because:

  • Overall, fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihoods of an estimated 540 million people, or eight percent of the world population

  • Fish products continue to be the most-traded of food commodities, worth a record $102 billion in 2008

  • Total world production of fish and fish products rose from 140 million tonnes in 2007 to 145 million tonnes in 2009, according to the FAO report. Much of the fish now comes from aquaculture, which is growing at the rate of almost 7% a year.
    Food and agricultural organisation of the United Nations