Scuba instructor Tyler Hart was on a shallow dive with a student in the British Virgin Islands when the two of them noticed a large sea turtle resting on the seabed. His student hadn’t seen a turtle while diving before, so they decided to get a closer look.
As they approached, they were surprised to see the turtle didn’t swim away as most would. It was then that Hart noticed something sticking out of the turtle’s mouth — it was a plastic Ziploc bag.
Figuring this was why the turtle was behaving strangely, he decided to try to help. Resting one hand on the back of the turtle’s shell, he slowly brought his other hand toward the turtle’s mouth and pulled gently on the bag. It was stuck. He tried again. All the while, the turtle remained still. Eventually, the turtle’s gag reflex kicked in, releasing the bag enough for Hart to pull it out completely. As soon as it came out, the turtle swam to the surface for air, before swimming out to deeper water.
The Ziploc bag was full of quarters. They later counted about $10 worth of the coins.
Luckily for this turtle, Hart and his student were able to help. But for most sea life affected by plastic pollution, the effects can be deadly. Plastic products in the ocean are a recurring problem for turtles and other sea life, who often mistake the debris for food. The problem is so bad that many nonprofit organizations have popped up to address the threat that trash poses to marine life. One such organization dedicated to lessening the impact of marine debris is Project Aware, a nonprofit that works with governments, businesses and individual volunteers to track and clean up ocean trash around the world. To learn how you can help curb the effects of marine debris, visit Project Aware’s website, or find tips on things you can do every day to help combat the problem here.