Preliminary analysis of microplastics from the main continental nesting beach of the hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) in Venezuela
Amilibia, Juan Carlos
Microplastics are an increasing threat to marine fauna and oceanic habitats, potentially affecting sea turtle nesting beaches. Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) are a Critically Endangered species with decreasing population trends. There are several hawksbill rookeries in the southern Caribbean Sea, particularly on Los Garzos Beach, the main nesting site of continental Venezuela. A preliminary physical analysis of microplastics sampled from 10 sites on Los Garzos Beach reported high numbers (94 ± 2.5 items) of 14 different materials and colors. Microplastic counts at 10 sites averaged 1504 ± 405.61 items m-2, higher than other sea turtle nesting sites worldwide. There were no statistical differences in the concentration of microplastics at the sampled sites of Los Garzos Beach. However, the concentration of microplastics on this beach is higher at the midpoint of the falling tide (3520 ± 405.61 items m-2) and the top of the sea turtle nesting area (3840 ± 405.61 items m-2). We speculate that this debris could harm the nesting environment of hawksbill sea turtles in the region. While this study presents preliminary values for microplastics in an important hawksbill turtle nesting beach in Venezuela, it also serves as a baseline for long-term studies that can help determine the impact and sources of plastic pollution in sea turtle rookeries.