Sunday, July 29, 2012

The month ends as it started, with an injured turtle.

Andy and Vaidas coming back
from a snorkel cleanup

July went by quickly here on our small island. We had a productive month with 4 dive sites surveyed for the Fishwatch project, an underwater snorkel cleanup, some studies of beach dynamics, as well as the submission of a research permit application for an upcoming coral reef recovery project- keep your eyes open for updates !


Fishwatching

However, today started in a rather sad way. The crew of one of our service boats noticed some floating nets on the surface just outside Lankan lagoon, and very soon realised that the nets were moving; there was a turtle tangled inside them! Two of the crew, Aowlad and Mamun, cut the nets and freed the turtle, but sadly, the animal was positively buoyant, and its front limbs were severely lacerated. Aowlad and Mamun brought the turtle closer to the shore and called the marine biologist.



Aowlad and Mamun, the hosts who
freed the turtle from the ghost net
It was a large 67cm-long female Olive Ridley Turtle. Its shell was chipped in some parts, and so we named the turtle ‘Chippy’. The left front limb was lacerated to the bone and immobile, while the right one also had severe lacerations as well. These injuries resulted from the turtle trying to free itself from the nylon net, and abrading the tissue to the bone. Moreover, the turtle was positively buoyant, just the same as Peggy who was the first injured Olive Ridley turtle that we found at the beginning of July  which is very alarming. Olive Ridleys are known to consume a lot of plastic debris. They seem to live a very oceanic life of which we know very little and they seem to associate with flotsam (Anderson et. al, 2009). The problem is that nowadays a lot of the flotsam is plastic, polystyrene and ghost nets like the one that our hosts hauled out today. The net itself is a 200mm mesh size gill net, aimed at catching large pelagic species of fish, and is not of Maldivian origin, since officially there are no trawl, pelagic gillnet or purse seine fisheries in the Maldives (Anderson et. al, 2009)


The turtle was sent to Four Seasons at Kuda Huraa where they have good turtle holding facilities, and we will be waiting for further updates. Liraz, marine biologist at Kuda Huraa said, that due to severe injuries Chippy will have to be transferred to another property in Baa Atoll (Four Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru) for further treatment and care.  Keep your eyes open for updates. 

A fully grown Olive Ridley, with 
extensive limb damage from a ghost net.
Chippy in a temporary holding 
tank at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa
This story is a sad reminder of how crucial education of the fishermen is, and just how damaging our fishing methods are up to this day (e.g. in March this year another 5 Olive Ridleys were found in one ghost net by another resort "Kuredu") ! (Click here for more info)

Just speculating from the two encounters at Gili Lankanfushi this month (both Olive Ridley turtles had severe limb damage from nets), and the fact that Kuredu team found 5 turtles in one net, it seems that Olive Ridleys are very prone to entanglement in these nets.

For a summary of the scale and extent of the rubbish in our oceans see an article by a fellow marine biologist here... 


Also, to better understand how the rubbish moves in the ocean visit 
http://www.5gyres.org 


For more scientific information on Olive Ridleys and ghost nets click here...