The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has called for the public’s help to locate and report the increasing number of turtles that get tangled up in plastic in the sea.
The call followed the release of four turtles back into the Mediterranean Sea this week, after treatment at the Israel Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Michmoret, north of Netanya.
Anyone who sees a turtle snarled up in netting, string, or a plastic bag should not try to remove the material and should under no circumstances return the creature to the sea, but should call the Israel Nature and Parks Authority hotline at *3639.
Get The Times of Israel’s Daily Edition by email and never miss our top stories
Free Sign Up
Recent months have seen a worrying rise in the number of turtles injured by life-threatening plastic. Young turtles like to float on seaweed, but with all the plastic pollution in the Mediterranean, they may well climb onto floating plastic instead, and get tangled up in it when they start to move.
The rising number of turtles being treated at the Israel Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, 1999 to 2019. (Courtesy, rescue center)
Turtles injured by plastic bags treated by the Israel Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, 1999 to 2019. (Courtesy, rescue center)
Dr. Yaniv Levy, director of the Sea Turtle Center, says plastic can strangle a limb, such as a flipper, causing a build-up of toxins and bacteria. Removing the plastic in an unsupervised way can cause those toxins and bacteria to enter the turtle’s body, which could lead to its death.
A plastic bag is removed from a turtle’s mouth at the Israel Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Michmoret, northern Israel. (YouTube/Israel Nature and Parks Authority screenshot)
At the center, the creatures are given antibiotics before the plastic is removed. In serious cases, Levy amputates the limb.
A young turtle, whose flipper was amputated to save its life after it got tangled up in plastic in the sea, swims at the Israel Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Michmoret, northern Israel. (YouTube/Israel Nature and Parks Authority screenshot)
For the past 15 years, the Environmental Protection Ministry has run programs to try to get Israelis to keep the beaches clean — a move also aimed at stopping plastic from reaching the sea. This year, the ministry budgeted NIS 550,000 ($160,000) to add manpower to municipal inspectorates in 14 local authorities, in an effort to boost enforcement against littering.
Since July 1 of this year, 898 fines have been handed out on beaches, of which 274 — of up to NIS 750 ($220) each — were for littering.
On Thursday, the ministry teamed up with the not-for-profit organization Ecoocean for a campaign to try to persuade Israelis not to bring single-use plastic to the beach.
Israel’s beaches rank poorly when it comes to environmental cleanliness, compared to others in the Mediterranean and the world, with a third of the local litter made up of single-use plastic and plastic containers.
אם ביליתם בסוף השבוע האחרון בים, כנראה שראיתם אותם ????במימון המשרד להגנת הסביבה, שוטרי משטרת ישראל תגברו את פקחי הרשויות החופיות גם בסוף השבוע האחרון, וקנסו את מי שהשליכו פסולת בחוף.אנחנו בדרך לחופים נקיים יותר!בתמונות: חופי תל אביב וחיפה. צילומים: שמעון רבן, אליהו יחימוביץ pic.twitter.com/xvJ2QzSL0t
— המשרד להגנת הסביבה – Environmental Protection (@SvivaMinistry) August 16, 2020
The ministry issues rankings of the cleanest beaches. The most recent list, released on August 13, found that among those ranked “very clean” were beaches in Ashdod on the southern coast; beaches in Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Bat Yam in the center; and those of Herzliya, in the Sharon region of central Israel.