Sun, Jul 14, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Half of stranded turtles consumed plastic: OCA

STATISTICAL CAUTION:Strandings might be reported more due to an increased focus on conservation, so long-term observations are needed to prove a trend

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

A person holds a turtle in Kaohsiung on Friday.

Photo copied by Hung Ting-hung, Taipei Times

Dissections of turtles found stranded ashore showed that more than half had consumed plastic and other waste produced by humans, while most were found on the coasts of southern and eastern Taiwan, the Ocean Conservation Administration (OCA) said in a report on Friday.

Established in April last year as part of the Ocean Affairs Council, the OCA in April released the first of its quarterly reports on strandings of cetaceans and sea turtles.

Mass strandings of cetaceans have been reported around the globe this year, the agency said, citing reports that more than 260 dolphins have beached along the northern Gulf of Mexico since February.

In the second quarter, the agency received reports of 71 stranded turtles — 24 more than the average reported in the same period for the previous three years, the report showed.

Green sea turtles remain the primary species found, with 65 rescued from April to June, it said.

The turtles were rescued mainly on beaches in Taitung County, Pingtung County, New Taipei City and outlying Penghu County, it said.

Veterinarians have performed autopsies on 48 turtles, among which 26 were found to have consumed plastic debris, polystyrene foam or metal, the OCA said.

It called on people to reduce use of disposable plastic products to prevent more marine animals from consuming them.

In the second quarter, the OCA received reports of 50 stranded whales and dolphins, 40 of which were found dead, it said.

The beached animals included 13 pygmy killer whales — some of which were stranded in a group on the coast in Kaohsiung in April — 10 finless porpoises, seven bottlenose dolphins and five Fraser’s dolphins, it said.

The stranded cetaceans were found mainly on beaches in Kaohsiung, Taitung County and outlying Lienchiang County, the OCA said.

A pilot whale found in Kaohsiung in April was deaf — which is more than likely why it became stranded — and despite 31 days of treatment, it died, possibly because its internal organs were inflamed, it said.

The rising number of stranded animals might be because of increased attention on marine conservation, so there needs to be long-term observations to determine whether there is an upward trend, the agency said.

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