Plastic debris ingested by sea turtles from the Korean waters: quantity, shape, origins, and polymer composition

Plastic debris ingested by sea turtles from the Korean waters: quantity, shape, origins, and polymer composition
Moon, Ye Lim; Hong, Sang Hee; Han, Gi Myung; Shim, Won Joon; Cho, Youna; Jang, Mi; Kim, Il-Hun; Kim, Min Seop
KIOST Author(s)
Moon, Ye Lim(문예림)Hong, Sang Hee(홍상희)Han, Gi Myung(한기명)Shim, Won Joon(심원준)Cho, Youna(조유나)Jang, Mi(장미)
Alternative Author(s)
문예림; 홍상희; 한기명; 심원준; 조유나; 장미
Publication Year
Globally, all seven species of sea turtles and about 52% of them were estimated to have ingested plastic debris. The literature from East Asia are scarce even though more than half of mishandled plastics are emitted to ocean from this region. Notably, no report has been published in the Korean waters. This study examined debris ingested by sea turtles stranded or by-captured from 2012 to 2018 in the Korean coastal waters for the first time. Plastic debris in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of 34 turtles, including 21 loggerheads, 9 greens, 2 olive ridleys, and 2 leatherback turtles, were analyzed. The plastic ingestion frequency of greens, loggerheads, olive ridleys, and leatherbacks were 100%, 81%, 50%, and 50%, respectively. The overall amount of plastics were in the range of 0-1.31 g/kg turtle (0-229 pieces/turtle). One of the juvenile loggerhead had been found stranded on beach with 10.24 g of plastics in GI tract, which was released with satellite transmitter 11 days before. Various types of polymer were detected in sea turtles, for example, polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, etc. Overall, film and fiber type constituted the majority of the debris. Some debris were labeled with Korean (n=9) or Chinese (n=10). This implies that these sea turtles had used Korean and Chinese waters as foraging areas. About 15% of total pieces could be identified what their origin was. Among them, single-use and fishing items were dominant, which is similar to the Korean beach monitoring result. Green turtles ingested more plastics (0.26 ± 0.44 g/kg) than loggerheads (0.07 ± 0.16 g/kg). The shape, origin of ingested debris varied between loggerhead and green turtles. Green turtles ingested commonly fiber (51%) such as rope, twine, and net. Contrarily, loggerheads ingested frequently film (61%) such as plastic bag, and packaging. It is plausibly assumed that the difference is related to feeding habit of each species. The shape patterns of plastic debris differed between sea turtles and coastal beaches. Sea turtles preferred to ingest film (43%), which relatively infrequent in coastal beaches (12%). The result of this study demonstrates that sea turtles foraging around the Korean waters are widely affected by marine plastic debris. It is crucial to reduce mega-, macro-, and mesoplastic debris which promote generation of microplastic especially putting priority on the plastic that are widely detected in marine waters and biota.
Bibliographic Citation
SETAC Europe 31st Annual Meeting, 2021
Related Researcher
Research Interests

Microplastic pollution,Persistent Organic Pollutants,Oil Pollution,미세플라스틱 오염,잔류성 유기오염물질,유류오염

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