At least 20 turtles are found dead as dozens more were rescued after getting entangled in plastic waste washed ashore on one among the world’s longest beaches in Bangladesh, officials and conservationists said.
Locals said waves of waste – mostly plastic bottles, fishing nets, and buoys – floated ashore late on Saturday, and turtle carcasses were spotted among the sand dunes early Sunday.
Bangladesh’s forestry department said it had been the primary time such an outsized volume of plastic had washed onto the 120-kilometer (75-mile) beach along the Bay of Bengal.
“Hundreds of locals rushed to the beach since early morning to rescue the wounded turtles,” forestry spokesman Sohail Hossain told AFP press agency.”We have buried the dead ones and try to release the rescued turtles back to sea.”
Beach clean-up charity Plastic Bank Bangladesh said their volunteers found and buried a minimum of 20 Pacific ridley turtles among the estimated 50 tonnes of waste opened up over a 10-kilometer (six-mile) stretch of beach at Cox’s Bazar.
“I haven’t seen these many dead turtles lying on the beach in my life and also haven’t seen such a huge pile of waste floating ashore,” fisherman Jashim Uddin told AFP.
Leading Bangladesh turtle and tortoise expert Shahriar Caesar Rahman of the NGO Creative Conservation Alliance said most of the turtles were a minimum of 30 years old.
“The turtles often get trapped in gigantic waste patches floating within the sea and eventually die of suffocation. This seems to be an identical case,” he told AFP.
About 26 tonnes of waste produced from ships and neighboring countries float into the Bay of Bengal per annum, said Moazzem Hossain of local conservation charity Save the character Bangladesh.
“This may be a unique case of plastic invasion. It sends an excellent danger signal to our marine biodiversity,” he said.
It was not clear what percentage of turtles were rescued. Local district administrator Kamal Hossain said authorities were investigating the incident.
Olive Ridleys are the foremost abundance of all sea turtles around the world, consistent with conservationists.
But their numbers are declining, and therefore the species is assessed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List.