Plea to help protect turtles

  • <B>An X-ray</B> shows a fish hook inside a green turtle, nicknamed ‘Hooks’ by BAMZ staff.<B></B>

    An X-ray shows a fish hook inside a green turtle, nicknamed ‘Hooks’ by BAMZ staff.

Boaters and fishermen are being urged to take care this summer to avoid harming endangered turtles.

One of the greatest threats to these animals is entanglement in fishing line; the other is getting hit by boats and statistics gathered by the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo show that 77 sea turtles have been injured this way in the Island’s waters in the past 25 years.

In addition recreational fishing has caused ten turtles to be admitted to the BAMZ Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre for veterinary treatment since 1986.

Almost all had small fish hooks embedded inside their jaw and mouth cavity. Nine were successfully treated and subsequently released; but one animal died.

Bermuda Zoological Society (BZS) research scientist Mark Outerbridge said the Island’s marine turtles are a protected species under both the Fisheries Protection Order and the Protected Species Act.

He said in May a juvenile green turtle was brought to BAMZ after getting caught with a hook and line off a public dock on North Shore.

BAMZ Principal Curator and veterinarian Dr Ian Walker examined the animal and a digital X-ray revealed it had swallowed two baited fishhooks, which were lodged deep within its throat.

“Dr Walker performed two procedures under general anaesthesia to remove the majority of monofilament fishing line which would otherwise have acted like a saw and severely damaged the turtle’s intestines,” said Mr Outerbridge.

“The two hooks were located in a difficult position and could not be removed during the procedures despite multiple attempts. It was elected to leave them in place and monitor the turtle.”

The animal was kept under close observation and finally eliminated both hooks early last month.

Mr Outerbridge said: “I am very grateful that the fisherman who accidentally caught ‘Hooks’ brought the turtle to BAMZ instead of immediately releasing it into the ocean with the fishhooks still inside of it.

“The health of a sea turtle can be seriously compromised when it has a fishhook embedded in its mouth or throat. Worse yet is the monofilament fishing line that is attached to the hook, which can cause intestinal damage via blockage or laceration. Also, if there is a lot of fishing line training behind the turtle, it can become entangled and drown.”

The Department of Conservation Services and BZS are asking members of the public to report any sea turtles found either dead or in distress to BAMZ at 293-2727.

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Published Jul 3, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated Jul 2, 2011 at 7:59 am)

Plea to help protect turtles

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