On Friday, April 6, an endangered Leatherback turtle was found washed up dead on a beach in Yamba, New South Wales. The animal had significant injuries including missing flippers and net marks around its remaining flipper and body.
Only 3 days earlier, the NSW Department of Primary Industries confirmed that a Leatherback turtle was found in the Shelly Beach shark net and released.
Sea Shepherd spokesperson, Allyson Jennings stated: “There is a reasonable chance that this turtle struggled in the net trying to get to the surface to breathe and despite being released, died from its injuries and the trauma of being submerged for so long. When stressed, these turtles may only be able to stay underwater for up to 30 minutes before needing to surface to breathe," Ms Jennings said.
“Enough is enough. When is the NSW Government going to stop this disgusting experiment paraded as a public safety measure? How many more protected species have to die to satisfy this shambolic trial?” Ms Jennings said.
Ms Jennings added: "This trial is a clear failure with approximately 97% of the catch being non-target animals. NSW DPI must, as a minimum, commence the tagging of every turtle caught and released from these shark nets to increase transparency of the effect of the nets on marine wildlife.”
Australian Seabird Rescue Manager Kathrina Southwell added: “This protected and endangered turtle could have survived if it was given over to us for rehabilitation. Instead NSW DPI allowed an injured animal to go, condemning it to a dreadful death. This is a very rare animal. I have never seen one alive in this area. It is heartbreaking for us at ASR to witness these unnecessary deaths when we put in so much effort to their rehabilitation.”
Leatherback turtles are the largest species of marine turtle in the world, spending most of their time feeding in the open ocean on jellyfish, squid and other soft bodied animals. They can grow up to 2.2m in length and weigh as much as 700kg. Very little is known about these turtles due to their pelagic lifestyle.
“To lose a giant of our oceans in such a tragic way is unacceptable. This large turtle would have been an important individual for this species, which is suffering from the impacts of plastic pollution, fishing and other human induced activities including shark control programs. The turtle should have been handed to Australian Seabird Rescue for care not thoughtlessly released injured into the ocean,” Ms Jennings said.
“Sea Shepherd calls upon the NSW Government to immediately cease this shark net trial. Stop misleading the public and wasting money on a program which only provides a false sense of safety,” Ms Jennings said.
Apex Harmony, NSW Coordinator