Despite conservation efforts by oceanic

island Príncipe—whose beaches provide nesting sites for green, leatherback, and hawksbill turtles—sea turtles face a barrage of threats.

Most prevalent among them: plastic.

Turtle monitor holding a handful of leatherback hatchlings (via Fundação Príncipe/Fauna & Flora International)

Efforts by the local government and nonprofits encourage good waste management habits, like reusing materials to reduce pressure on natural resources.

But it’s not enough for one remote island to recycle.

“The plastic washed up on Príncipe’s otherwise pristine beaches is carried there on the prevailing currents from the African mainland, more than 150 miles away,” according to Fauna & Flora International (FFI), which has worked with Fundação Príncipe since 2015. “And it’s the unwanted gift that keeps on giving.

Disturbing evidence of the impact of plastic pollution on Príncipe’s turtles (via Fundação Príncipe/Fauna & Flora International)

“No matter how often they clear the beaches, Príncipe’s communities invariably wake up to a new wave of littoral litter,” the group said, likening the situation to the 1993 film Groundhog Day, “but without the happy ending—and with real consequences, particularly for turtles.”

Autopsies conducted on four of the five juvenile turtles that died last year after being stranded on the beach revealed plastic in their digestive tracts.

Wildlife officials in December found a tiny turtle dead on the Florida shoreline after it consumed more than 100 pieces of plastic.

And they’re not alone: Hundreds of thousands of marine animals die each year from ingestion of or entanglement in aquatic debris; 80 percent of trash in the ocean comes from landfills and other urban sources.

“There is an urgent need to address this growing menace,” FFI said. “But local action—which effectively amounts to running to stand still—has to be supported by wider, indeed global, efforts to combat the scourge of marine plastic pollution.”

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