by Curlan Campbell
- Cora and Aurelia, 2 endangered green turtles, rescued, treated and released
- Kite threads responsible for turtle entanglement injuries
- Sea turtles are often found entangled in discarded fishing line
Days after being rescued and treated for strangulation lesions due to becoming entangled in kite threads, two endangered green turtles (Chelonia mydas) were released off Grand Anse beach. The sea turtles named Cora and Aurelia were rescued 6 days apart by a team of volunteer scuba divers and snorkellers during the monthly beach cleanup on 20 February organised by Eco Dive. Veterinarians Dr Kenrith Carter and Dr Dave Marancik mobilised quickly to provide medical treatment. “The issue with entanglement is not a new issue, although this is the first of us seeing kites responsible. Sea turtles are often found entangled in discarded fishing line. As the turtle struggles to get free and surface for air, the entanglement line tightens and cuts into the turtle,” said Ocean Spirits Sea Turtle Veterinarian Dr Carter.
Dr Carter explained the juvenile green named ‘Cora’ suffered from strangulation lesions around both front flippers which caused necrosis (dead tissue). Cora received antibiotics, pain medications and IV fluids donated by the Dr Carter vet team, and was later released onto Grand Anse’s seagrass beds after making a full recovery.
Six days later, a cleanup diver spotted another green turtle named ‘Aurelia’ entangled in kite threads. “This turtle appeared with less severe physical injuries but was in a more exhausted state. On-site we administered antibiotics and pain medications. It has suffered strangulation lesions to both front flippers and a laceration to the top of the neck,” Dr Carter said. Dr Marancik treated Aurelia at the marine station at St George’s University (SGU) where fluids were administered. After 24 hours the sea turtle was released into the ocean.
Diveshop ECO Dive indicated that an average monthly trash collection will yield 30 kg of trash within just one hour, while peak cleanups can reach weights of up to 65 kg. Trash collected includes plastic cups, food wrappers and bags, clothes, fishing line, personal products, bottles and cans. Marine Scientist and Divemaster Christine Finney attached to ECO Dive said that the average amount of trash collected increases by 150% during events like carnival, while seasonal spikes have been observed during months leading up to Easter holidays.
Efforts to rid our oceans of trash is not only limited to Grand Anse. Over the last few months, Ocean Spirits have collaborated with Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) and the Dr Carter vet team to remove marine debris from the offshore islands around Grenada and Carriacou. This opportunity also allowed for data to be collected on the quantity and quality of marine debris. In addition, Ocean Spirits have been carrying out coastal litter cleanups on several uninhabited seabird breeding islands. The cleanups, which began in September 2020 as part of the International Coastal Clean-up funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), USAID, and the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife for the Wider Caribbean Region (SPAW-RAC).
To date, hundreds of kilos of garbage have been removed by volunteers, consisting primarily of plastic water bottles and other single-use plastics, pieces of fishing nets, ropes, and foam. For example, in one trip, 28 large garbage bags of trash were collected, while another trip yielded over 1,000 plastic bottles and 165 shoes removed from a single island. Most recently Oceans Spirits removed 10 extra-large garbage bags of plastics that were collected from Sandy Island in just 1 hour by the 3-member team.
Marine Biologist Kate Charles Project Manager at Ocean Spirits appeals to people to be mindful of their waste disposal habits. “If everyone made small changes it would have a huge impact. Simple decisions can cause a big change in the quality of our marine environment. When you are out grocery shopping look for products in no plastic wrap; buy in cardboard packaging if able. Walk with your shopping bags so you don’t need a plastic bag for your fruits and vegetables.” She said, “Think about your carbon footprint, it is far better for our local environment and economy to buy and eat local.”
Statistics from UNESCO suggest that plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. This means that every 30 seconds, one marine mammal or sea bird dies due to plastic pollution.