The body of a green turtle which apparently died from eating garbage has been found on a beach in Sai Kung, the first evidence to show that marine animals have been taking in litter.

Ms Mandy Wong, who discovered the dead turtle, said that she notified the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department immediately. On the next day when she returned, however, the body was shattered into pieces. She thought it might have been mauled by a dog. She was surprised to find that the turtle’s stomach and intestines were full of marine trash, Stand News reported.

green turtle
The lifeless green turtle. Photo: Mandy Wong via Stand News.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said that this was the first time that evidence of sea turtles ingesting marine litter had been found in Hong Kong. Dee Hwa Chong, senior fish researcher at the Ichthyological Society of Hong Kong, told Ming Pao that the turtle had swallowed a fatal amount of garbage. According to Dee, the plastic litter would tear its digestive tract and block its intestines, which would prevent the turtle from taking in food.

According to the WWF’s Coastal Watch, a coastal cleanup and marine ecology project in its inaugural year, plastic litter is posing a serious threat to Hong Kong ecosystems. “During all of the surveys, we observed various organisms entangled in debris which caused injury or death, like “ghost nets” (fishing nets which have been cast adrift). We also found fish bite marks on pieces of plastic litter,” said Mr Patrick Yeung, Coastal Watch Project Manager.

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Traces of marine litter in the turtle’s system. Photo: Mandy Wong via Stand News.

“The pollutants absorbed by marine animals will potentially accumulate along the food chain, which will eventually damage the marine ecosystem, affect fishery resources and human health. It is imperative that we tackle the marine litter problem at its source immediately,” he said.

Green sea turtles are a protected species in Hong Kong and have been listed as endangered under The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The only regular nesting site for green turtles in Hong Kong is the sandy beach at Sham Wan, Lamma Island.

Karen cheung hong kong

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.