Sea Shepherd volunteers help rescue entangled turtle at Cocos Keeling Islands

Wednesday, Aug 19, 2020

Sea Shepherd and community members at the Cocos Keeling Islands rescue a suffering turtle from fishing debris, highlighting the devastating problem of plastic pollution.

This week at the Cocos Keeling Islands (CKI), a local resident was on Jetty Beach, West Island when they found a turtle entangled in marine plastic pollution. The juvenile green turtle couldn’t move and was floating on the surface, wrapped in plastic film, rope and fishing line.

The turtle was wrapped in plastic film, rope and fishing line.

There are no facilities on the island to help rehabilitate turtles, so the resident called for assistance from Sea Shepherd volunteers, Liza and Mike Dicks, and they removed the fishing debris, which was wrapped around the front flippers and neck of the poor turtle. Sadly, it also had a fishing hook right down its throat with fishing line attached, which was too far down and couldn’t be removed. They noticed the plastics had bite marks, most likely a sign that the turtle had been trying to eat the debris. 

The turtle is released back into the ocean

The Sea Shepherd volunteers and community members released the turtle back into the sea and it swam away. However, they noticed that it didn’t dive down, possibly because it had ‘floater syndrome’ from eating plastic. When swallowed, the plastic cannot be digested and cause gas to develop and this prevents turtles from being able to dive for food.

The CKI is a remote coral atoll in the Indian Ocean, 2,750 kilometres northwest of Western Australia, and thousands of turtles live in the lagoon and around the seagrass bed where the entangled turtle was found. It’s also a black tip shark nursery and important home for many other species of fish.

Marine debris on a beach in the Cocos Keeling Islands

Since our campaign began in 2016, we have reported that the CKI is increasingly being inundated with plastic washing ashore from SE Asia. In 2017, scientists from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), along with Liza and Mike Dicks, were part of a research team that surveyed the atoll and it was estimated that over 414 million pieces of plastic were on the beaches to a depth of 10cms.

Australian beaches are being inundated with plastic that washes ashore

Sea Shepherd volunteers have conducted clean-ups to remove marine debris from the area, filling multiple bags with bottles, straws, polystyrene and other plastics. Sea Shepherd is hosting a community clean up on 23 August on West Island at the same location where the turtle was found.

Full event details here

Liza Dicks during a clean-up on the Cocos Keeling Islands
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