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Plastic bag ban helps save California’s endangered sea turtles

By Gary Bogue
Thursday, August 12th, 2010 at 6:07 am in Plastic bags, Sea turtle.

Leatherback sea turtle. Photo by Flickr user Steven Damron used under a Creative Commons License.
Steven Damron2 leatherback

Chris Pincetich, Ph.D., marine biologist for the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, asked me to pass along the information below about the deadly effects of plastics on California’s endangered sea turtles and how AB 1998 is a first step to help what is now an epidemic of plastic pollution. Please read it and do what you can. Thanks. /Gary

Plastic Bag Ban Will Help Save California’s Endangered Sea Turtles
San Francisco, CA – A new report released today exposes the severe harm that plastic bags in the ocean cause to the endangered sea turtles and other marine life offshore of California – and how banning single-use plastic bags will help save the lives of critically endangered leatherback sea turtles off the California Coast. Download the report at

Leatherback sign. Photo by Flickr user Steven Damron used under a Creative Commons License.
Steven Damron leatherback

The report, entitled “A Ban on Plastic Bags Will Save the Lives of Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtles” was released by Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP) in advance of the California Senate’s vote on AB 1998, which would ban grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores from handing out single-use plastic bags at the checkout.

“California can lead the nation in stopping the free distribution of plastic bags at retail stores,” said Dr. Chris Pincetich, STRP’s marine biologist and toxicologist.  “Passing the plastic ban bill would be a great first step toward reducing ocean plastic pollution that kills endangered sea turtles.”

The report outlines the severe threat of plastic bags to endangered sea turtles, especially the critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles that use the California coast for feeding and migration. Leatherbacks mistake floating plastic bags for its favorite food, jellyfish. The report cites many scientific studies, including one that concludes that a third of adult leatherbacks have ingested plastic, many with fatal consequences.

According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, Californians use more than 19 billion plastic bags every year, and San Francisco Bay Area residents alone use 3.8 billion plastic bags per year and discard over one hundred plastic bags per second. Many of these bags end up in the ocean where leatherbacks accidentally eat them. 

AB 1998 will be voted on by the California State Legislature starting in mid-August.

Plastic bags are a primary component of urban litter pollution and marine litter pollution.  Single-use plastic bags are a problem product because they are light, aerodynamic and are littered at a high rate. Once littered, plastic bags travel through the environment, ultimately ending up in the ocean and joining giant “garbage patches” circulating in ocean vortices.

The Sea Turtle Restoration Project is encouraging the public to contact their State Senator and the Governor to vote for the bill, to save the lives of sea turtles and reduce bag pollution in the marine environment. An entire month of events promoting the benefits of AB 1998 to sea turtles is planned, with a massive Bag Monster rally in San Francisco the Thursday, August 12.

All seven species of the world’s sea turtles are threatened by ingestion of plastic bags and plastic marine debris. Many countries including China, Australia, and India have already addressed the environmental damage caused by plastic bag pollution through their own bag bans or policies.

*** The Sea Turtle Restoration Project is a program of Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN), an environmental organization working to protect and restore endangered marine species and the marine environment on which we all depend. Headquartered in California, with offices in Texas and Costa Rica, TIRN is dedicated to swift and decisive action to protect and restore marine species and their habitats and to inspire people in communities all over the world to join us as active and vocal marine species advocates. For more information, visit … and …

*** What you can do to help

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