Sea Turtle Rescue
Anyone interested in protecting and restoring endangered species quickly learns that every individual in that species is important. For species whose numbers have dropped 85 to 90%, and face serious threats at every stage of the life cycle, hope can reside in the survival of a single hatchling or a single sub-adult, or in a mature female about to enter the nesting season.
Several times a year STCB is called upon to attempt to rescue a sea turtle in distress or danger. Though each rescue is unique, there are two themes common to most of our rescues. One, rescues are begun and sustained by the community. Two, most rescues involve sea turtles that have become snared in a portion of the vast tangles of abandoned fishing line and fish nets that drift in the sea. Here are two recent stories of rescue:
An adult male hawksbill turtle was found alive but stranded on the hard coral rock bench on Bonaire’s east coast. The turtle was entangled in a mass of fishing line, ship’s ropes and floats, 15 meters (50 feet) long and 90 kilos (200 pounds) in weight. The line was imbedded in the flesh above the turtle’s front flippers.Several times a year STCB is called upon to attempt to rescue a sea turtle in distress or danger.
This turtle would not have survived many hours in the heat of dry land, but fortunately the stranding was spotted and reported by a nearby resident who was scanning the beach. Staff from STCB were called and carefully removed the line. After determining that the animal was in good condition, staff measured and tagged the turtle, and with the assistance of Marine Park rangers transported it to a safe location where it was gently released. Despite having been entangled for a lengthy time (as evidenced by the flipper wounds), this turtle displayed the typical toughness of its species and swam strongly into the waves upon release.
A sub-adult green turtle, missing both its front flippers, was found in the shallow, protected waters of Lac. The turtle was rescued by Doi Boekhoudt and Stanley Marinus, who live and fish in the area and keep an eye out for trouble in the bay. We can’t be certain how the turtle lost its flippers, but it is a typical consequence of entanglement at sea in drifting fishing line.
Whether to try to save this animal was the question we asked ourselves as an organization dedicated to sea turtle conservation. Left in the wild, the turtle would be vulnerable. And biologically, the animal is unable to contribute to the green turtle population since it cannot reproduce. However, as an individual, this turtle exhibited plenty of strength and was attempting to feed. Knowing that this type of limb loss was typical of sea turtle entanglements in drifting fish lines, we recognized that the turtle could play an important role in raising awareness of a major cause of sea turtle death. Transported to the Sea Aquarium in Curaçao, the turtle is thriving and serves as a poignant educational ambassador for visitors. Accidents such as this turtle suffered occur more frequently than we can imagine and by showing the consequences we can help conservation efforts to protect those turtles remaining in the wild.