Are turtles more important than people?

Kiwiblog has published a guest post, written by David White, which poses an interesting question, and it is a question we probably do not consider enough. Are the lives of turtles more important than the lives of humans? quote:

The implied reason for banning  is due to their polluting nature in the marine environment. The assumption seems to be that marine animals turning up dead with plastic in their stomachs in other places, means that the same thing must be occurring in NZ. However it seemed a stretch to me, to assume that sea life say in the Mediterranean was (a) the same that occurs in NZ waters and (b) they are exposed to the same plastic debris in NZ waters. 

Turns out common dolphins don’t have plastic bags in their stomachs, 53 dolphins from 1997 to 2006 where studied.

How about sperm whales? Of the 19 sperm whales beached between mid 90’s and 2004, no mention of plastics again occurs. 

Long‐finned pilot whales? Ditto, no mention of plastics in the five whales that beached themselves on Farewell Spit in 2005. 

The [turtle] population in NZ was found to be made up of turtles from the West coast of Mexico / South America and also turtles from East coast and easterly islands from Australia and up to Guam. One expects the connection with seas north of NZ, but was a surprising result to see animals from East of the Americas coming to NZ. 

Plastic was only found in approximate a third of the turtles (12 of 35). Which surprised me, as I would have assumed that given the media beat up around turtles and plastic, that nearly all turtles would have been affected. end quote.

The article continues with some well-reasoned analysis and concludes that it is indeed true that there has been plastic found in the stomachs of some turtles that are found in the waters around New Zealand. His conclusion is that about 30% are affected.

But then he looks at another angle: quote:

Banning recyclable plastic bags, are likely to have an impact on humans. For example we gift away a lot of produce from our orchard….. all in plastic bags. Others use them to pick up dog poo. These types of applications can be replaced by purchasing packets of paper bags, or other plastic bags like lunch bags. So these behaviour changes involve costs, but not much risk to human health. 

However grocery shopping is a different kettle of fish. It would be easy to see how a bag could be contaminated with meat product. And this could be transferred onto fruit or vegetables that are not cooked before consumption, or contaminate surfaces of packaged goods, which go onto contaminate kitchen surfaces. 

Thus you would expect to see a rise in disease with recycling of grocery bags. This is indeed what you see. Data mining to extract the impact of the San Francisco County ban on plastic supermarket bags, there was a 32% increase in E. Coli, 27% increase in Campylobacter, 6% increase in Salmonella, but not increase in Toxoplasmosis. Disturbingly there was a 46% increase in deaths from  foodborne diseases. 

It is well known that NZ has very high Campylobacter rates. Using readily accessible 2012 data 7031 cases were reported, which gives an 159 per 100 000 people, which is the highest in the developed world.

Another grim fact, is that for every campylobacter case reported, 9 go unreported. Thus infect rates across NZ are approximately 1% of NZ’ers get campylobacter every year!

So an increase in infection by 30%, is going to effect approximately 20 000 people.

The only NZ sea animal that is known to be negatively affected by plastic bags are sea turtles. These are not unique to NZ, and only 30% seem to be affected by eating plastic bags.  Removing plastic bags will reduce the plastic ingestion, but not eliminate it.  

There are important health effects for humans, with an additional 20 000 people getting infected with campylobacter, and an additional 214 hospitizations. That isn’t counting any other foodborne diseases increasing. 

So do the benefits to sea life outway the negatives to humans? Well to save a handful of animals not unique to NZ, while creating 10’s of thousand illnesses every year, to me is not a wise choice, and one that I cannot describe as ethical. end quote.

So effectively, he is saying that by banning plastic bags, we are causing a greater risk to humans because of food contamination than the existing risk to turtles that are not native to our waters anyway. He is also saying that the risk of food contamination is high and that it is likely to increase with the end of plastic bags.

We all know that this was never anything more than virtue signalling. Large parts of the world banned plastic bags, so we had to follow suit but countries like Malaysia who have a complete ban on plastic bags also have large numbers of turtles in their waters, so saving their own marine life does make sense.

This article proves beyond doubt two things that we already know:

  1. Supermarkets are rolling in the cash by jumping on the bandwagon and banning plastic bags.
  2. We have a government that puts virtue signalling ahead of the health of its own people.

This is nothing more than another badly thought out policy by this juvenile government but we have now come to expect nothing else, haven’t we?


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Accountant. Boring. Loves tax. Needs to get out more. Loves the environment, but hates the Greens. Has been called a dinosaur. Wears it with pride.

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