It looks like recently turtles have been luckier than their fate had planned for them…
Both Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani hosts helped out these endangered creatures. This week we will tell the story of Captain Ibrahim, a Olive Ridley entangled in a net and next week… baby turtles!
Few days ago, during a recreational dive at Soneva Jani the boat captain, Ibrahim, pointed out at something in the ocean. Even though there were 6 trained marine spotters on board no one could figure out what he was pointing at. TURTLE! Sadly this turtle was caught up in a ghost net, unable to swim fully and floating towards the side of the boat.
Ghost nets are made up of and lost, discarded or abandoned fishing nets. Due to their nature they can float for years or decades from the point of origin on ocean currents and often entangle with other ghost nets, ropes, wood, and lines. These nets and conglomerates can continue to entangle seabirds, fish, turtles, dolphins, whales, dugongs, sharks and rays in a process called ghost fishing. Often the animals do not survive this or they survive with lacerations, amputations or loss of family groups. Ghost nets can also smother coral reefs, damage boat propellers, introduce invasive species and have a financial loss to fishing and tourism.
Part of our job is to ensure that the oceans are a safe environment for the animals and the people using them. The team brought the net and entangled turtle onboard, this can be a very stressful process for the turtle as we can’t explain that we are trying to help. From its size and distinguishing features they recognised it a juvenile Olive Ridley turtle. Olive Ridley turtles are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, they are the smallest and most abundant sea turtle species. Unfortunately we rarely see them in the Maldives except for during the North East Monsoon season when they have been caught in ghost nets close to Sri Lanka and drifted on currents to the Maldives.
After carefully and slowly cutting the net away from the turtle and checking it over for signs of injury we placed it back into the sea to check for swimming ability. As the turtle was unable to dive down below the surface we knew it needed further assistance. We placed it back onto a wet towel to prevent drying out or overheating and gently into a secure box in a shaded area. On the journey back we got onto the Maldives Marine Biologist network and contacted our friends at the Olive Ridley Project to check the procedure for overnight handling. At this time they did not have any tanks available to house our turtle but our friends at Four Seasons did, we spent a long time sending photos and information across and ensuring this turtle was safe to leave overnight. Once back at Soneva Jani we placed the turtle into the equipment sink at Soleni Dive School where it had plenty of space to swim and rest. Catherine then spent a few hours cutting the net into pieces to record the data from it. Different nets types originate from different countries and by recording the size, rope type, colour and any markings the Olive Ridley Project can find out where these damaging items originate to try and prevent further damage.
The next morning our turtle was carefully packed into a secure crate, labelled and placed onto a TMA seaplane with some of our departing guests. It was flown to Male where it was met by the Marine Savers team and transferred to their rehabilitation centre. On arrival it was checked over fully and found to be dehydrated and underweight but otherwise ok. This was the fourth turtle found during the NE Monsoon season and the 311th Olive Ridley recorded entangled in the Maldives. If we continue to work together with Resorts, Dive Schools, Boat Captains, Locals and Rescue Centres we can all help to reduce the threat to these endangered species and make the oceans a safer place for all. We will continue to receive updates on this turtle now named Captain Ibrahima (after our keen eyed captain) and we wish it a speedy recovery!
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