It had been 30 minutes and we hadn’t seen a peep. It was our second day in Gibraltar and my first ever dolphin tour. Half way through, drenched by the sea’s spray, and I was starting to lose hope.
Emerging from the cover of clouds and into a ray of sunlight, the sea’s dark depths were illuminated. Then, we spotted it. Drifting a few feet from the port side of the boat was a Loggerhead turtle caught on a sac bag. Unable to dive, left unattended and it would have died.
Turning back and slowing the pace, the on board marine biologist, Rocio Espada, and her team mate Georgia hooked the sac bag and managed to bring the turtle on board. It was a young turtle, so still quite small, but had a number of barnacles growing on its face and shell.
Keeping the turtle calm and still so as not to harm itself, the pair rested the turtle on a vacated seat. On inspection, its right leg had been caught on the stringy plastic, which was tightening its grip and cutting off circulation.
Finding a pair of clippers in the boat’s cabin, Rocio cut the turtle free from the plastic as Georgia and a fellow passenger held it still. To the cheers of the on looking crowd, Rocio then showed the turtle to the passengers before gently dropping it back into the sea, where it immediately dove out of sight and on to freedom.
With only a few minutes left, our conservation efforts were rewarded by a brief but exhilarating view of the bay’s Common Dolphins. Although we hadn’t really seen our intended stars for very long, and only from a distance, the privilege of witnessing a life being saved was something I’ll never forget.
Unfortunately, though this was a thrilling experience for me, finding trapped turtles is not a rare occurrence. this was not a first for Rocio, and it doesn’t look like things will be stopping soon. To keep marine life safe, we must learn to recycle. Avoid plastic bags, and if you must use them, always re-use and dispose of them properly.
With any luck, our little Rocio turtle (as we all decided to name her), will live a long and happy life, thanks to our dolphin spotting, turtle saving dream team, Rocio and Georgia.