Consuming just one piece of plastic waste could significantly increase the risk of death for a sea turtle, according to a study on link between sea turtle mortality and plastic debris ingestion.
According to Xinhua news agency, Australian researchers found there was a one-in-five chance of death for a turtle which consumed just one plastic item, and the probability rose to 50 percent for 14 pieces.
The study was conducted by researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Sea turtles are among the first taxa recorded to ingest plastic debris, a phenomenon that occurs in every region of the world and in all seven marine turtle species.
Those floating plastic wastes are often mistaken by marine life for jellyfish. Globally, it is estimated that approximately 52 percent of sea turtles have ingested plastic debris. It happens at all stages of a sea turtle's lifecycle, and particularly, most frequently at the juvenile stage.
About 23 percent of juveniles and 54 percent of post-hatchling turtles have ingested plastic compared to 16 percent of adults.
Scientists say that is because young turtles are less selective in what they eat, and they drift and float with the ocean currents as do much of the buoyant, small lightweight plastic.
The accumulation and persistence of plastic debris in the marine environment is of increasing concern.
According to the study, an estimated 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tonnes of plastic debris entered the world's oceans from land-based sources in 2010 alone, with this input likely to increase exponentially into the future.
This poses a considerable threat to marine life, primarily through entanglement and ingestion. The study has been published in the journal, Scientific Reports.