When fishermen saw a sick turtle floating in the water, they realized he desperately needed help. When a group of Tasmanian fishermen noticed a turtle floating in the southern ocean, they thought it was an incongruous sight and decided to investigate. They knew the animal was way out of its comfort zone that far south. But when they maneuvered their boat closer, the fishing party realized the turtle was not in a good way at all.
That’s when they downed their nets and decided to help the desperate creature instead. When they made their sighting in January of 2017, the fishermen had been trailing off the southeastern coast of Tasmania. The Australian island state is located in the southern ocean and is surrounded by a fascinating array of sea life, including many species native to the region. Tasmanian waters play host to a number of visiting whales, dolphins, seals, and seabirds. So, it’s safe to say that anyone who spends time on the open seas near Tasmania will see their fair share of marine life.
However, when the fishermen spotted one animal on their outing, it gave them pause. That’s because the creature was a Loggerhead sea turtle, which is far from native to local waters. Worryingly, the turtle the fishermen had found did not look too hot. The 220-pound adult male appeared to be very lethargic and sickly. His energy levels were so low that he was unable to submerge himself when the boat approached. Furthermore, he was carrying a lot of barnacles. The presence of so many of these sea parasites indicated the turtle had been inactive, possibly from illness, for some time.
Concerned by the condition of their catch, the fishermen decided to call the Marine Conservation Program. Based out of Hobart, this organization monitors the populations of Tasmania’s ocean-based mammals and seabirds. Its hotline primarily functions to allow the public to report sightings of aquatic mammals in distress. However, it was more than willing to send out some of its operators to assist the ailing turtle.
While they awaited help from the Marine Conservation Program, the fishermen tried to pull the loggerhead onto their vessel. “We were so happy to help this turtle in distress,” one of their number, Richard Moore, revealed on Facebook. “We spent three hours on the bay at White Beach trying to get him on our boat. It was such a great moment when we dragged him on board.”
Soon, staff from the Marine Conservation Program came to relieve the fishermen. The deputation from the Marine Wildlife Welfare Group arranged temporary accommodation for the turtle overnight at the nearby Denaley Fish Mart. They also organized a veterinarian appointment for him the following morning. In the meantime, the conservationists set about the painstaking task of removing the barnacles from the patient. They had to carry out this process one by one to prevent from damaging the turtle.
One of the rescue team’s biggest concerns was the distinct possibility that the loggerhead could consume trash from the ocean. Almost 26,500 tons of plastic make their way into the world’s seas each year, making it easy for marine life to ingest those items.
And due to a strange similarity to other sea creatures, one of the biggest threats to turtles is plastic bags. Loggerhead sea turtles often confuse floating plastic bags for jellyfish, which are a staple element in the species’ diet. However, once consumed, the bags can cause catastrophic damage. They can become lodged in a turtle’s intestines, preventing them from absorbing nutrients and even causing the unfortunate animal to suffocate or starve.
With that in mind, it was key that his rescuers got the turtle to a veterinarian as soon as possible. When they did, they posted an update on the Marine Conservation Program’s Facebook page. “The turtle was given a full veterinary assessment today, including X-rays to rule out some common culprits,” it read. Thankfully, the veterinary examination found no trace of plastic in the turtle’s system.
This was good news for all those involved. It meant Marine animal experts could concentrate on getting the animal better. As a result, they wasted no time getting the loggerhead on the road to recovery. The turtle has been given fluids and stripped of its barnacle hitchhikers. The Marine Conservation Program posted updates for those following the story.
What puzzled its rescuers the most was how the turtle had arrived in Tasmanian waters in the first place. “In Australia, loggerhead turtles breed only on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland and Northwestern Australia. However, this animal could belong to one of ten sub-populations. Genetic analysis of loggerhead turtles found in Tasmania showed some originated from as far away as Oman,” the Marine Conservation Program update continued.
However, this animal could belong to one of ten sub-populations. Genetic analysis of loggerhead turtles found in Tasmania showed some originated from as far away as Oman,” the Marine Conservation Program update continued. The Marine Conservation Program update gave no indication as to what had caused the captured turtle’s lethargic state.
However, it may well have been because the waters off the coast of Tasmania were simply too cold for the creature. That is because water temperatures can have a major, and sometimes tragic, effect on loggerhead sea turtles’ metabolic rates. Loggerheads can become lethargic when entering water between 55 degrees and 59 degrees Fahrenheit, which, as we’ve seen, is around the range of the sea temperature around Tasmania.
If the temperature drops five degrees lower, the animals begin to float and take on a stunned appearance. Usually, turtles avoid this scenario by migrating to warmer waters as and when is needed. One theory online suggested the turtle had landed himself in cold water after unwisely following a food source too far south. One Facebook user in Tasmania claimed that they had spotted an influx of the Portuguese man o’ war on the island’s beaches. Since the loggerheads are known to eat the deadly jellyfish-type creature, the poster suggested that this is what the turtle was after.
According to National Geographic Magazine, the loggerhead sea turtle has been considered a threatened species since 1978. Threats to the species’ existence include pollution, net throwing, and of course, marine garbage. To combat these issues, a number of international conservation efforts are currently underway.
Tragically, some efforts were too late for the Tasmanian turtle. In a sad update made in late February of 2017, the Marine Conservation Program told its followers that the loggerhead had a serious lung infection that had not responded to treatment. It was all just too much for the poor fellow after his ordeal. With heavy hearts knowing that with the animal’s population at risk, every turtle life is vital, veterinarian experts at the organization took the merciful decision to put the patient down. So, the Tasmanian fishermen had joined a long line of animal lovers doing their utmost to save the loggerhead. It was just unfortunate that their rescue came too late in the day for the Marine Conservation Program to save the poor creature.