Marine Waste Management
Marine Waste Management
- Ship to Shore Program
- What is Marine Debris?
- Why Involve Fishers and Harbour Authorities?
- What Can You Do?
With over 16,000 kilometers of coastline, it is no surprise that Newfoundland and Labrador has been built along the coast, with many communities relying year after year on the ocean for their livelihood. Due to this connection to the ocean, our province has the highest number of active harbours in the country, with 343 active harbours (the second highest is Nova Scotia with 226). Unfortunately, Newfoundland and Labrador’s marine environments experience various threats daily, including threats presented by marine debris.
Effects of marine debris on species at risk
Leatherback Sea Turtle (Endangered)
It may be hard to believe, but Newfoundland and Labrador is home to a turtle! The Leatherback Sea Turtle are migrating species, and like whales, they travel along our coasts throughout summer to forage before returning south to breed. Atlantic Canada has a predictable abundance of jellyfish, and therefore hosts one of the highest densities of foraging Leatherback Sea Turtles. Unfortunately for human viewing, Leatherbacks will never be found onshore in Newfoundland, as they stay out in the ocean snacking on jellies!
Leatherback Sea Turtles is 1 of only 7 species of marine turtles in the world. As per their name, they have a leathery shell, differing from the “typical” bony shells of other species of turtles (including the other 6 marine species). The shell is shaped like a teardrop with 7 distinct dorsal ridges tapering at the tail. Leatherback Sea Turtles are bluish-black in colour with scattered white blotches and have very large paddle-shaped front flippers. Each adult has a uniquely patterned “pink spot” on the top of the head, which is believed to play a role in prompting migration by responding to seasonal changes in daylight. The adult Atlantic population of Leatherback Sea Turtles that frequent our waters have an average curved carapace (shell) length of approximately 1.5 metres and an average weight of approximately 400 kg. As their diet consists mainly of jellyfish, the throat and the esophagus of Leatherbacks are covered with spines which is an adaptation to assist in swallowing the slippery jellies.
Anthropogenic threats to Leatherback Sea Turtles include: entanglement, vessel collisions, marine pollution, acoustic disturbance, climate change, poaching, coastal development, and artificial light.
The threat of highest concern in Atlantic Canadian waters is entanglement in fishing gear, which can cause lethal or sub-lethal injuries to a turtle. Entanglement can also compromise a turtle’s ability to swim, resulting in drowning. Poaching, coastal development, and artificial light are not threats in Canadian waters, as these compromise recruitment success.
How YOU Can Help Leatherbacks in NL
You can help protect sea turtles by using less plastic! As mentioned above, Leatherbacks’ main diet are jellyfish, and as you can see in the picture below, it is easy for these turtles to confuse a plastic bag for a jellyfish. Once ingested these plastics can not be digested or naturally expelled from the body. They simply stay within in stomach… as more plastics enters, their stomach becomes more full having no room for food, causing starvation and death. They may also get tangled up in various kinds of plastic, such as 6-pack rings from soda cans or packing straps. This causes injuries and makes it hard for them to swim or feed, causing drowning.
You can reduce plastic waste and help sea turtles by:
using reusable shopping bags
recycling plastic whenever possible
drinking from refillable water bottles
packing your lunch in reusable containers
refusing single-use plastics, like straws and bags
disposing garbage in proper trash containers, as garbage litter can be carried by wind and water to the ocean