Plastic has been discovered in the stomach of a leatherback turtle that was washed up on a beach in Cornwall.
An autopsy by researchers at the University of Exeter revealed while the plastic did not kill the 1.8-metre turtle, they said it is further evidence of widespread pollution, with plastic found in “almost all” the turtles they have examined.
The leatherback turtle was found at Marazion near Penzance after the summer storms on Sunday and is believed to have been killed by a boat propeller.
It was not possible to establish exactly when the turtle died but the researchers believe the level of decomposition meant it died in UK waters or nearby.
Professor Brendan Godley, Leader of the university marine strategy and a former veterinarian carried out the autopsy with the help of three PhD students – Emily Duncan, Liliana Poggio Colman and Dominic Tilley.
Ms Duncan, who sailed across the Pacific earlier this year to study the presence and impact of micro-plastics in the region, said: “Leatherback turtles are known to swallow plastic bags which they are thought to confuse with their natural jellyfish prey.
“We can confirm that this is now what killed this animal. She had partially digested food inside, as well as a piece of clear plastic. It is unfortunate that almost all turtles examined now around the world have plastic in their gut.”