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Sea Turtles Often Mistake Floating Garbage For Food : Ledwell

Sea Turtles Often Mistake Floating Garbage For Food : Ledwell

A necropsy conducted on the carcass of a leatherback turtle which washed ashore in Point Lance on the southern Avalon shows it had ingested a large plastic garbage bag.

The badly decomposed remains were brought to the attention of DFO officials on Monday.

The Whale Rescue and Strandings group traveled to the area on Tuesday. Spokesman Wade Ledwell says the female, which he estimates had been dead for several weeks, was in poor condition, but they were able to glean some important information.

He says the stomach wasn’t in too bad a shape and they found a large, green plastic garbage bag, something that probably prevented it from eating properly.

Ledwell says sea turtles, including leatherbacks, often mistake floating garbage bags for their favourite food, jellyfish. Ledwell says it’s likely this particular animal ingested the bag somewhere else.

The impressive animals, which are listed as vulnerable, are not uncommon in Newfoundland waters this time of year. Research Scientist with DFO, Dr. Garry Stenson says the turtles, the largest of their kind, can reach two metres in length.

He says they tend to travel north late in the summer when the water gets warmer, chasing jellyfish, their favourite prey.

He says they come up from breeding beaches further south. One turtle that got caught in fishing gear off the coast of Newfoundland a few years ago in late summer had been tagged on a breeding beach in French Guiana just a few months earlier.