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For sea turtles, a diet worse than junk food

A great reminder to use reusable bags.

Conservation & Science

A Pacific leatherback turtle in Monterey Bay breaks the surface about every two hours, taking a deep breath of air before going back under to hunt for jellyfish. Leatherbacks use their powerful flippers to propel themselves forward and grab a gelatinous mouthful.

Leatherback hatchlings_Jeroen Looye_flickrCCMabibi – LEATHERBACK TURTLE” by Jeroen Looyé is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Only it might not be a jellyfish.

It might be a plastic bag, perhaps one of the 13 billion disposable grocery bags that Californians use each year. Scientists are finding single-use bags, cosmetic microbeads and other types of plastic litter throughout the ocean, even in the deepest submarine canyons. Globally, an estimated 8 million metric tons reach the ocean every year.

Plastic doesn’t biodegrade. Instead, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, persisting in the environment. That makes plastic pollution a major threat to marine ecosystems—and sea turtles are among the…

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