Ocean contamination by plastics is a global issue. Although ingestion of plastic debris by sea turtles has been widely documented, contamination by microplastics (< 5 mm) is poorly known and likely to be under-reported. We developed a microplastic extraction protocol for examining green turtle (Chelonia mydas) chyme, which is multifarious in nature, by modifying and combining pre-established methods used to separate microplastics from organic matter and sediments. This protocol consists of visual inspection, nitric acid digestion, emulsification of residual fat, density separation, and chemical identification by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. This protocol enables the extraction of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, (aminoethyl) polystyrene, polypropylene, and polyvinyl chloride microplastics > 100 μm. Two macroplastics and seven microplastics (two plastic paint chips and five synthetic fabric particles) were isolated from subsamples of two green turtles. Our results highlight the need for more research towards understanding the impact of microplastics on these threatened marine reptiles.
A. Caron, C. Thomas, K. Berry and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 127, February 2018, Pages 743–751