Marine debris ingestion in loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta, from the Western Mediterranean

Mar Pollut Bull. 2002 Mar;44(3):211-6. doi: 10.1016/s0025-326x(01)00236-3.


Marine debris represents an important threat for sea turtles, but information on this topic is scarce in some areas, such as the Mediterranean sea. This paper quantifies marine debris ingestion in 54 juvenile loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) illegally captured by fishermen in Spanish Mediterranean waters. Curved carapace length was measured, necropsies were performed and debris abundance and type was recorded. Different types of debris appeared in the gastrointestinal tract of 43 turtles (79.6%), being plastics the most frequent (75.9%). Tar, paper, Styrofoam, wood, reed, feathers, hooks, lines, and net fragments were also present. A regression analysis showed that the volume of debris increased proportionally to the size of the turtles. The high variety of debris found and the large differences in ingestion among turtles indicated low feeding discrimination of this species that makes it specially prone to debris ingestion. Our data suggest that more severe control of litter spills and greater promotion of environmental educational programmes are needed in the Western Mediterranean.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Fisheries / instrumentation
  • Gastrointestinal Contents / chemistry*
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Plastics / adverse effects
  • Plastics / analysis
  • Turtles* / physiology
  • Water Pollutants / administration & dosage
  • Water Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Water Pollutants / analysis*


  • Plastics
  • Water Pollutants