Monday, March 30, 2009

From Bermuda News: Turtles survive horrific boat strikes

Turtles survive horrific boat strikes

By Amanda Dale
Royal Gazette
Monday March 30, 2009

Tough turtle: Mark Outerbridge and Patrick Talbot remove barnacles and algae from a boat struck Green Turtle which was found in Jews Bay on Wednesday. The turtle is missing a large portion of shell but is still alive.
Photo: Mark Tatem

Boat users are being urged to slow down after two more injured turtles were recovered from the water this week.Both Green Turtles are both lucky to be alive, according to Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo (BAMZ) head aquarist Patrick Talbot.

The first was found floating in Jews Bay and the second was recovered from St. George's Harbour."We are amazed they are still alive," said Mr. Talbot.The turtles are now being rehabilitated at BAMZ, but need daily care to clean out their wounds.

The first, estimated at between 20 and 30 years old, was spotted by a member of the public on Wednesday in Jews Bay. The turtle was severely injured and Bermuda Turtle Project coordinator Mark Outerbridge had to jump in the water to retrieve it.Mr. Talbot said: "His injuries are such that it is as if someone has taken a big ice cream scoop and taken a chunk the size of a quarter of his body away.

"The wounds however, are starting to heal, and Mr. Talbot said this points to the incident happening a couple of weeks ago."The staff here are all amazed this turtle is still alive," he said. "We are hoping we will be eventually able to release him back to the wild, but at the moment he needs daily care."It's the same with the one today. It also needs daily cleaning of its wounds."He said a St. George's resident reported seeing the turtle in the middle of the harbour last Friday.

"It had just been hit and was still bleeding," said Mr. Talbot, who described the injuries as "the size of a large dinner plate".He said the turtle's shell had gaping holes in both the top and bottom, indicating it had been struck by the prop of a boat.

The turtle is thought to be between five and ten years old."We want people to be more aware," said Mr. Talbot. "Last year we had a number of turtles killed from boat strikes in a short space of time."There are signs up close to shore, so please obey the laws. Anyone within 100 yards of shore has to be travelling at five knots or no wake."If you can imagine the amount of force it takes to punch through a turtle's shell, if that was done to a human being, the damage would be so horrific the human wouldn't survive."

Mr. Talbot added it was important to protect these animals as Bermuda is a "major staging ground" in the Atlantic for growing juvenile and sub-adult Green Turtles.

From August to November of last year, five turtles were killed in boat collisions, whereas from August 2007 to August 2008, six were killed over the course of a year. Experts say the rise in boat strikes is a worrying trend.Anyone finding a dead or injured turtle should take it to the staff at BAMZ. Contact BAMZ at: 293 2727.