A sad story about turtles and plastic bags

By: Kate Wilson
Date posted: 11 December 2017

Our supporter Saeed Rashid took a photo of a sad situation which he knew happens, but hadn’t witnessed before…

turtle eating plastic bag
© Saeed Rashid

At the end of a dive on a reef called Big Gota in the Red Sea, we came across two hawksbill turtles, a male and female feeding on jellyfish. I got close to the female and took a few photos of her eating. Then I realised she had a plastic bag in her mouth and in fact wasn’t able to eat, she was just nudging the jellyfish clearly in some distress.

I had to try and help so I put away my camera and tried to pull the bag from her mouth. The plastic bag was not only in her mouth but also down her throat. The turtle was surprisingly calm, and once she opened her mouth the bag came out. There was about 8 inches down her throat, stopping her from eating.

Almost as soon as I pulled the bag out she tried to eat yet another bag that floated by, I quickly pulled that bag away and she went on to eat a few of the many jellyfish around us, she was clearly very hungry.

I took a few photos and as our dive time was up we decided to ascend. Both turtles followed us up and seemed to play with us on the surface, with them at times climbing all over our cameras as we tried to photograph them. I’m not sure they were ‘saying’ thank you but it was a great interaction with these two incredible marine reptiles. I’m sure these turtles will just go on to eat the next plastic bag that floats by but I hope I helped a little.

We encountered more turtles on this trip that I had ever seen before, but they will soon die out unless we do something, NOW! I want our children to see with their own eyes what I’ve come to love in the oceans.

I often talk about plastic waste in the ocean but have never seen it’s effect so close up. For the love of what ever you hold dear act on this, don’t leave it for someone else.

Please think about this the next time someone offers you a plastic bag or disposable item, do you really need it, maybe you could just pop that item in your pocket and keep a reusable bag with you.

Saeed Rashid, Focus Visuals

MCS is currently calling on UK governments to put a charge on single-use plastic throwaway items and demanding that big fast food chains stop giving out millions of plastic cups, stirrers, straws and cutlery but instead replace them with reusable or fully compostable alternatives.

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