The sad tale of Thunderbird the Sea Turtle
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World Sea Turtle Day is well known on 16th June yearly to focus on and lift consciousness about sea turtles, and the threats dealing with them. Across the world, sea turtles are more and more threatened, with six out of the seven sea turtles, now labeled as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
Leading threats embody air pollution, poaching, and unintended catches or bycatch throughout fishing actions. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), bycatch is the main menace with an estimated 300,000 sea turtles by chance caught in world fisheries. This menace is espoused by the unhappy story of a loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) christened Thunderbird.
In July 2020, Thunderbird was discovered entangled by deserted fishing gear within the Mediterranean. The turtle was saved and brought to a rescue centre. It was fitted with a satellite tv for pc tag to trace its motion and freed. Researchers then tracked the turtle from the Strait of Gibraltar to the West coast of Africa.
“We hooked up a satellite tv for pc tag earlier than she was launched on 11 August, which allowed us to trace her epic journey of 6,000 km by means of the Western Mediterranean and the waters off West Africa. This turtle shocked us by crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, a difficult space due to its sturdy currents and excessive density of marine site visitors, which might lead to a excessive threat of boat collision”, mentioned David March of the Universities of Exeter and Barcelona who was concerned on this monitoring.
By February 2021, the Thunderbird was off the coast of Senegal nonetheless, the sign from its tag grew to become erratic with the ultimate place on 17th March 2021, exhibiting the turtle on land, close to the port of Dakar. After checking that the battery and tag sensor have been working accurately, the final place was referenced with information from the Global Fishing Watch portal, that indicated this place was close to a fishing floor utilized by trawlers, presumably indicating that it was unintentionally caught by a fishing vessel.
“We discovered that the final dive recorded by the satellite tv for pc tag was close to a fishing floor utilized by trawlers. All this implies the turtle was bycaught (caught accidentally) by a fishing vessel and brought again to the port. We don´t know if Thunderbird was launched alive after seize, or died as consequence of the bycatch occasion”, provides March.
Currently, researchers are utilizing satellite tv for pc information and dealing with companions in Senegal to seek out the boat that caught the turtle, within the hope of discovering out extra details about the destiny of Thunderbird.
West Africa is among the world’s richest fishing grounds, with the area offering one fifth of the world international fish catch, and inevitably quite a few bycatch incidences. Since 2017, BirdLife International in collaboration with nationwide and worldwide companions geared toward establishing an operational framework for decreasing the incidental catches of sea turtles in West Africa’s industrial fisheries. The mission funded by the MAVA Foundation has 5 key pillars specifically strengthening analysis and scientific capability, strengthening observer programmes, advocacy for laws & mitigation measures, consciousness and public outreach, along with sustainability and partnerships.
“There is a variety of unregulated and/or unsustainable fishing actions off West Africa, and we’re working with native companions and fishing firms to adapt fishing gear and strategies to minimise bycatch of sea turtles,” famous Ahmed Diame, Bycatch Project Manager, at BirdLife Africa.
“We are additionally figuring out the principle fishing hotspots – corresponding to the realm the place Thunderbird was caught. With the knowledge collected by observers onboard industrial fishing vessels and the ocean turtle monitoring information, we will establish the important thing threat areas and intervals for species bycaught throughout fishing actions’’, provides Diame.
Understanding the spatial and temporal impacts of several types of fisheries on marine turtle populations is essential with a view to implement sustainable conservation methods. Consequently, the mission has enabled a greater understanding of the dimensions of bycatch occurrences in West Africa.
A key element of the mission is capability constructing by means of finishing up trainings for fisheries observers. These trainings present to observers with expertise on sea turtle identification, sea turtle dealing with finest practices, sea turtle bycatch mitigation strategies, and bycatch information assortment protocols. From May 31st to June 04th 2021, the staff held a regional coaching in Somone, Senegal, the place 13 fisheries observers and bycatch information managers from Mauritania, Gambia, Cabo Verde, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and Sierra Leone participated. The coaching was a part of the efforts to ascertain a community of nationwide trainers within the totally different concerned nations.
“These conservation interventions will probably be instrumental in serving to preserve sea turtles. As we mark World Sea Turtle Day, we should act with velocity to save lots of these majestic creatures that are threatened”, concludes Diame.
Thunderbird was tagged throughout the framework of “Oceanographic turtles”, a joint programme by the Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System (SOCIB), Alnitak, Palma Aquarium Foundation and the University of Exeter, with the help of NOAA NMFS. Find out extra about Thunderbird’s journey right here