Turtle entangled in fishing gear in Pico Island

The waters around the Azores can be seasonally inhabited by 5 different species of sea turtles! Loggerhead, Green turtle, Hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley and Leatherback – from which Loggerhead is by far the most frequently sighted!

Loggerheads can be seen in the Azores since their first months/years of life – with about 5cm of shell length – up to almost the end of their subadult’s phase – with approximately 80cm of shell length. Being the largest hard-shelled turtle in the world, they can grow up to 1m shell length and live up to 70 years (2) – if they survive to all their natural and anthropogenic threats along their way. Curiously, their adult life-stages are not observed on the Azores!

Well, to arrive here, the neonates travelled within the Oceanic currents from the tropical environments of the Southeast and Central America. They are brought over to this area by the Gulf Stream (together with their favourites delicacies – Sargassum seaweeds, small crustaceans and millions of tiny undisguised plastic fragments) (1;3). Therefore our waters represent one foraging and development ground habitat for some of these juvenile loggerheads – born on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean (4)!

Unfortunately, species such as loggerhead sea turtles, characterized by long life’s and late sexual maturities, require very high survival throughout their youngster years to maintain healthy population numbers (5) – being one of the reasons that leads their long migrations up to our Oceanic ecosystems, since it used to have fewer threats in comparison with the coastal ecosystems where they were born in… The problem is nowadays we have a new top species wandering through our Oceans poisoning everything through its way… wild plastics!

Unfortunately, species such as loggerhead sea turtles, characterized by long life’s and late sexual maturities, require very high survival throughout their youngster years to maintain healthy population numbers (5) – being one of the reasons that leads their long migrations up to our Oceanic ecosystems, since it used to have fewer threats in comparison with the coastal ecosystems where they were born in… The problem is nowadays we have a new top species wandering through our Oceans poisoning everything through its way… wild plastics!

Almost every day we take out these wild plastics from our Ocean, many times floating in-between (or on top of) the whales, dolphins, turtles and fishes… but most of the times it already left on them unchangeable marks…

All the following videos were taped last month, by one of the guests onboard our Whale Watching tour and also by our crew members. 

On the first video, the turtle was found underneath the fishing gear, still not entangled, maybe looking for some algae growing over it to forage on – notice as we try to take the trash away from the turtle it always tries to find protection under it, coming near the ropes again and again?

On the second video, tapped by Ricardo Nigro, a juvenile loggerhead was heavily entangled on fishing ropes…

Our perception and efforts towards Nature conservation are already present throughout our daily life’s, but we surely need to continue on this hard and fructiferous walk through the awareness road – mainly up to ourselves, our children and eventually our politicians.

Don’t forget to reduce and refuse what you don’t truly need, and re-cycle everything it’s not possible to re-use again!

For a better planet and a better life for each and every one!

1) https://www.seaturtlestatus.org/articles/2019/1/31/atlantic-loggerheads-why-isnt-the-best-understood-sea-turtle-recovering

2) https://marinebio.org/species/loggerhead-sea-turtles/caretta-caretta/

3) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317508370_Plastic_ingestion_in_oceanic-stage_loggerhead_sea_turtles_Caretta_caretta_off_the_North_Atlantic_subtropical_gyre

4) Bjorndal, Karen A., Alan B. Bolten, and Helen R. Martins. 2003. “Estimates of Survival Probabilities for Oceanic-Stage Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta Caretta) in the North Atlantic.” Fishery Bulletin 101 (4): 732–36.

5) CONGDON, JUSTIN D., ARTHUR E. DUNHAM, and R. C. VAN LOBEN SELS. 1993. “Delayed Sexual Maturity and Demographics of Blanding’s Turtles (Emydoidea Blandingii): Implications for Conservation and Management of Long‐Lived Organisms.” Conservation Biology 7 (4): 826–33. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1993.740826.x.

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