Marin County Plastic Bag Ban Protects Endangered Sea Turtles
The decision today by the Marin County Board of Supervisors to unanimously pass an ordinance to ban plastic bags at retail stores throughout unincorporated Marin County was hailed by West Marin’s non-profit Sea Turtle Restoration Project as having a positive effect on reducing the plague of plastic pollution harming marine ecosystems and impacting endangered sea turtles.
“Endangered leatherback sea turtles migrate to California to feed on jellyfish and often mistake plastic bags for food, sometimes with lethal consequences,” explained Dr. Chris Pincetich, a marine biologist and campaigner for the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, who spoke at four public hearings leading up to the vote. “We applaud the Marin Board of Supervisors for standing up bravely to opposition and taking the necessary first steps to reduce the chances plastic bag litter will reach our marine sanctuaries and the endangered sea turtles that depend on clean oceans.”
"The staff, interns, and volunteer work force at Marin's Sea Turtle Restoration Project office will be continuing our years of local outreach to support the transition away from plastic by our neighborhood businesses," continued Dr. Pincetich. "We are committed to supporting this plastic bag ban and others that are taking shape in cities all across the state. It's one big ocean for sea turtles. They don't see city and county boundaries. Working together with businesses and communities, we can reduce plastic pollution that ends up in our ocean."
Plastic bag waste is having an extremely deleterious effect on the marine environment, impacting sea turtles, marine birds, and marine mammals. The bags escape in large numbers into storm drains, our creeks, the San Francisco Bay and ultimately the sea, adding to the billions of tons of plastic which harms and kills approximately 100,000 sea turtles and other marine animals each year.
The critically endangered Western Pacific leatherback sea turtle, which forages off the California coastline each summer and fall, is particularly vulnerable to floating plastic bags because they often mistake them for their favorite food, jellyfish.
A 2009 study published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal estimated that one-third of leatherback sea turtles have plastic trapped in their digestive systems, and for one in nine leatherbacks these blockages could prove fatal.
Discarded plastic bags also fill up our landfills and litter County streets and parks, increasing maintenance and cleanup costs. Because of the short- and long-term damage these bags cause the environment, the expense to the municipalities and taxpayers for their cleanup, and because there is a simple, readily available alternative--the reusable bag--continued widespread use of single-use plastic bags cannot be justified.
For more information about how plastics are harming the marine environment, please visit the Bag the Plastics campaign page at www.seaturtles.org/plastics.