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15 April, 2015  |  INSTITUTIONAL
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The marinas help rescue sea turtles
Club de Mar-Mallorca and RCNP are the first marinas to take part in the collaboration agreement with Palma Aquarium to help them in the rescue and preservation of wounded tortoises and spread information about the problems affecting this protected species.
The sea turtle is one of the most primitive and strong animals on the Earth. Its evolutionary process and adaptation capacity have allowed it to survive cataclysms, such as the one that extinguished dinosaurs during the cretaceous up until today, facing a greater menace: the man.

Protected by different institutions created by the state and european government, 'the impact from human action on sea turtles is responsible for all the problems that affect this species, whose population has decreased all over the world', claims Debora Morrison, preservation manager in Palma Aquarium.

'Ocean pollution, boat crashes, capture by fishing commercial nets or death caused by ingestion of plastic bags, which they may mistake for gellyfish', says the expert, are these animal's main causes of death, which have also been victims of massive capture to use everything from them: meat, eggs, skin and shell.

The sea park, a collaborating center with COFIB - a service depending from the Environment Office - for the rescue of marine fauna on the Islands, offers professional help since July 2014 to rescue and assist sea turtles that may be hurt in the sea or stranded at beaches. A work they complete with research, environment education and expanding the network with other entities to spread information about the problems that affect sea turtles and raise awareness among the population for their protection and recovery.

The sea park's preservation manager states that, despite the difficulty in erradicating these problems, 'information and education are key to improve this situation, as we have seen over the past decades. The new generations are much more aware, they have a greener thinking. That is why it is so important to inform and that is why all the activities we do always have a message about the importance of preserving the oceans and their species', she states.

Accordingly, the center has set up a collaboration program with different yacht clubs on the Islands joined by Club de Mar-Mallorca and RCNP, consolidating their commitment with the environment. Through posters, brochures and talks, the intention of this campaign is 'to give information to sailing users, to students and parents at the sailing schools, to sportsmen participating in regattas organized by the Clubs, about protocols they must follow to better assist a wounded tortoise. In addition to this, the marinas have a temporary collection container for users to place the tortoises they might find', explains Morrison. The Clubs also have an action plan to activate the alarm so the sea park's professionals go and collect the animal.

'To inform the citizens about these problems and offer them steps on how to proceed in a rescue wheteher the animal is dead and, most importantly, if it is hurt can save their life and that is very important to minimize the impact from human action on this species', says the expert. To avoid people from getting close, not try to extract the hook, to cover the shel with a wet towel but without covering the head and keep them in the shadow, are a few indications that can contribute to a success in the animal's recovery that takes place in the center.

Palma Aquarium has a team of 10 to 15 specialized professionals (biologists, divers, curators, vets) that assists and coordinates each one of the wounded animal's recovery stages that takes place in their facilities, adapted for an initial treatment, as well as tanks and outdoor spaces for rehabilitation until they bring them back to nature.

So far they have been able to recover 9 tortoises, 'although unfortunately we have lost some others as well', regrets the preservation manager. In general, the ones that arrive here are sick from 'pneumonia, liver problems and many of them from being trapped in plastic nets, like Julia and Valentina, two loggerhead sea turtles that are now recovered from a fin amputation that had to be done because they were in an advance state of necrosis. It is highly likely that, 'with the arrival of the good weather, they will be returned into the sea. ' Andrés' case requires more time. 'He came a month and a half ago in a very bad condition, after a woman found it half buried at the beach. The recovery is being surprising, but it will be a little longer before it can go back into the sea', she explains.

On the Balearic Islands there are no population census that quantifies the number of tortoises in the archipelago's waters, but they know that the dominant species is the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), that arrives to our coasts to feed from the West Mediterranean and from the Mexican Gulf. This species' natural behavior raises its exposure to risky situations. In the adult age, the loggerhead becomes more coastal, which increases the risk of crashing with a boat. Its opportunistic nature makes it bite the baits from the surface fishing lines and the fish trapped in the driftnets. They also ingest plastics and other floating waste which cause them important injuries in the digestive tube. All of this makes the protected marine areas to preserve this species insuficient.

Expand the collaboration net

'The collaboration with other organisms is key for the recovery of the marine fauna', claims Debora Morrison, who highlights the work of the Environment Agents, security forces and maritime rescue, as well as the veterinarian hospitals Aragó, volunteers and private entities such as ISCOMAR, 'who facilitates the transporation of the animals between islands'. In their intention of expanding the collaborations, the center works on a new campaign with the Fishermen Association, 'Los aliados del mar' ('Sea Allies'), to help professional fishermen pick and transport the wounded tortoises they might find during their labour. Beacause they are protected species, 'tortoises are subject to a regulation. A professional that encounters an injured tortoise is compelled to return it into the sea, when the reality is that if they are not treated it very likely they will die', she explains. The boats joining this campaign will be granted authorization from the Environment Office to not comply with the Ministry Law for collaborating boats.

Paquita Giménez - 13-04-2015

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