Plastic bags killing turtles, Quebec aquarium warns
Officials at the Magdalen Islands aquarium say plastic bags threaten the lives of the leatherback turtles that migrate to the region every summer.
The Island Aquarium has launched a seasonal exhibit on the leatherback turtle to raise awareness about the dangers.
Since 2005, more than a dozen of the 400-kilogram creatures have been found dead along the beach.
Ninety per cent of the carcasses that wash up along the shoreline of the Magdalen Islands have plastic in their stomachs.
"[The plastic bags] block the turtle's digestive system and cause it to starve to death," said Isabelle Reid, a guide at the aquarium.
Reid said the turtles eat the plastic bags found at the bottom of the ocean, because they believe they're jellyfish, the turtle's main source of food.
The leatherback sea turtle is the world's largest reptile; it can grow to be as large as a double bed.
The turtles are critically endangered, and they travel to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence from all over the world to feast on jellyfish.
Campaign against plastic continues
Reid said the museum's leatherback turtle exhibit is just one step in the campaign to raise awareness about the problem.
Two years ago, the aquarium had cloth bags printed with an image of the turtles to encourage people to use cloth instead of plastic.
The aquarium has sold all of its 2,500 bags, and now grocery stores and pharmacies are offering their own cloth bags.
Reid said the campaign has helped reduce the number of plastic bags distributed on the Islands to one million from four million.
Aquarium officials also hope the campaign will encourage people to do simple things to help preserve marine life, such as pick up a plastic bag if they see it on the ground.