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Ingestion and defecation of marine debris by loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta, from by-catches in the South-West Indian Ocean

Hoarau, Ludovic, Ainley, Lara, Jean, Claire, Ciccione, Stéphane
Marine pollution bulletin 2014 v.84 no.1-2 pp. 90-96
Caretta caretta, bycatch, defecation, digestive system, feces, ingestion, marine environment, plastics, sea turtles, water pollution, wildlife, Indian Ocean, Reunion
Marine debris, caused by anthropogenic pollution, is a major problem impacting marine wildlife worldwide. This study documents and quantifies the ingestion and defecation of debris by 74 loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta, in the South-West Indian Ocean. Debris was found in 51.4% of gut or fecal samples of loggerheads by-catch from Reunion Island long liners. Anthropogenic debris was ubiquitous in our samples with plastics accounting for 96.2% of the total debris collected. No significant relationship was detected between the characteristics of ingested debris and the biometric characteristics of loggerheads. The number, weight, volume and mean length of debris were higher in gut content of deceased loggerheads than in fecal samples of live turtles, but not significantly, except for the mean length. This is the first record of debris ingestion by sea turtles in the Indian Ocean and our results highlight the magnitude of this pollution of the marine environment.