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Marine Life & Conservation

Saving Leatherback Turtles

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Last summer I was sat on the cliffs at Pendeen in Cornwall watching the sea swell gently rise and fall over the rocks below. It was a still and bright sunny day with Fulmars circling along the cliff face and the occasional seal checking out the shallows for food. Just as I was thinking how it couldn’t get any better, nature did its thing and sent a giant Leatherback Turtle cruising 100meters out from the shore. It really was a giant too. Hard to guess its real size but it had to be at least 5-6ft long.

The leatherback is the largest of the marine turtles and gets its name from the black, leathery skin that covers its carapace.  Leatherback turtles are considered to be critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Nesting females are often killed for their meat and their eggs are harvested. At sea leatherbacks seem to be particularly vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear, especially long lines and gill nets.

It’s hard to describe how I felt watching this fantastic animal swimming to some unknown part of the ocean. I know I was smiling. It is hard to accept that one day soon, that turtle, along with its entire species, may be gone from this planet forever, never to return.

Larry McKenna is the founding director of S.O.L.O. (Save Our Leatherbacks Operation). I first heard of his work through MilaBooks.com and their Sea-Gram News Letter. The following is taken from the April edition of the Sea-Gram news letter.

Larry McKenna’s work takes him to the remote land of Papua, Indonesia, home to the Aboriginal Papauans, and site of the largest leatherback sea turtle nesting beach, about 18 kilometers long and up to 100 meters wide.

Larry describes the scene on the beach:

“The only illumination is a reflection of moon light on the white foam of a breaking wave. All is quiet, except the gentle lapping of the surf while we wait for a living dinosaur to exit the sea and laboriously climb the slope of the beach.

She will locate where she was hatched 12 or more years ago, repeating the 150-million-year drive to reproduce so the species may survive. Left alone, this ancient hatching process would continue unimpeded, but humans have introduced the spectre of extinction of this most valuable creature of the seas.”

eye-of-leatherback-turtle

The Eye of a Leatherback Turtle During Nesting Trance

When the leatherback selects her nesting spot and begins to dig a four-foot-deep nest, she goes into a trance and does not recognize any activity. Enlightened humans can approach and marvel at the amazing beauty nature provides.

leatherback-turtle

However, while she is in this egg-laying trance, the nesting female is in danger from other humans; those who would slit her throat and use her skin for handbags and fashion items, in addition to senseless killings, egg poaching, and trophy collecting.

Global warming poses another threat, as high tides drown nests and heat cooks the eggs in their shells.

Leatherback hatchlings are about four inches long and cannot crawl over a twig. Yet they must face a host of jungle predators at nesting beaches, such as wild pigs, dogs, salt water crocodiles, crabs, and pythons.

leatherback-turtle-2

Larry’s activities include relocating eggs from tidal nests into bamboo pens, and excavating the nests that hatched in the night to examine the remains and determine what happened to unhatched eggs.

In almost every nest he finds several comatose hatchlings, which ran out of air climbing upward to freedom. He places an unconscious hatchling in the palm of a guest’s hand and encourage him/her to give it “leatherback CPR” by softly blowing into its face and nose. Soon it begins to wiggle and wants to be set on the sand. All the volunteers have tears in their eyes because they have just given life to a leatherback baby which would have become crab food later in the day.

How you can help:

1. Should you wish to experience this truly exciting and memorable visit to the leatherbacks, along with some of the best diving in the world, please contact P.J. Campagna, a very dedicated foundation volunteer, for the details:

pj-campagna@comcast.net

2. Watch this short youtube video (which includes donation information), placing you right there on the nesting beach, but which also shows some of the ATROCITIES humans inflict on these gentle giants:

[youtube id=”ufD8jJgK2p4″ width=”100%” height=”400px”]

The above text, information, and photos are used with permission, from Larry’s article: To Touch A Dinosaur.

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust about the Big Shark Pledge (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust UK about the Big Shark Pledge.

The Big Shark Pledge aims to build one of the biggest campaigning communities in the history of shark conservation. To put pressure on governments and fisheries. And make the positive changes required to safeguard awesome sharks and rays.

Find out more at: www.bigsharkpledge.org and www.sharktrust.org.


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Marine Conservation Society to take legal action over ocean sewage spills

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The Marine Conservation Society is announcing joining as co-claimant in a legal case against the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to protect English seas from sewage dumping.  

The legal case seeks to compel the Government to rewrite its Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan 2022, impose tighter deadlines on water companies and redevelop the Plan to effectively apply to coastal waters which are, currently, almost entirely excluded.  

Sandy Luk, Marine Conservation Society CEOUntreated sewage is being pumped into our seas for hundreds of thousands of hours each year; putting people, planet and wildlife at risk. 

We’ve tried tirelessly to influence the UK Government on what needs to be done, but their Plan to address this deluge of pollution entering our seas is still unacceptable. We owe it to our members, supporters and coastal communities to act, which is why we’ve joined as co-claimants on this case. We’re out of options. Our seas deserve better.”  

Launched and funded by the Good Law Project, the Marine Conservation Society will stand as co-claimants on the case with Richard Haward’s Oysters, and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm. 

Before reaching this point, the charity responded to a government consultation in March 2022 and met with DEFRA to express concern. In August 2022, the charity wrote an open letter to DEFRA outlining the ways in which the proposed Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan fails to protect the environment and public health from dumping raw sewage into the sea. However, the Plan hasn’t been amended and still fails to adequately address water companies’ excessive reliance on storm overflows and the harm their heavy use causes to our ocean. 

The plan virtually excludes most coastal waters (except for bathing waters) either directly or indirectly, with some types of Marine Protected Areas and shellfish waters totally excluded. 600 storm overflows are not covered at all by the Plan and will continue to – completely legally – be able to dump uncontrolled amounts of sewage directly into English seas and beaches. What’s more, the Plan lacks all urgency – with long-term targets set for 2050, and the earliest, most urgent targets not to be met until 2035.  

Meanwhile, Marine Conservation Society analysis finds that raw sewage is pouring into the ocean at an alarming rate. In total, there are at least 1,651 storm overflows within 1km of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in England. These overflows spilt untreated sewage 41,068 times in 2021. Of these, almost half the overflows spilt more than 10 times in 2021, with an average of 48 spills for each of those overflows. Overall, in 2021, sewage poured into Marine Protected Areas for a total of 263,654 hours. 

According to DEFRA’s own latest assessments, only 19% of estuaries and and 45% of coastal waters are at ‘good ecological status’, with none meeting ‘good chemical status’, and three quarters (75%) of shellfish waters failing to meet water quality standards. 

Rachel Wyatt, Policy & Advocacy Manager for Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation SocietyUntreated sewage contains a cocktail of bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals, and microplastics. It’s nearly impossible to remove microplastics and ‘forever chemicals’ once in the environment. Due to their persistence, with every discharge, these pollutants will continue to increase, meaning eventually they will pass – or may have already passed – a threshold of harm.”  

In addition, it’s not just invisible toxins that are causing problems. In September this year at the charity’s annual Great British Beach Clean, sewage related pollution, such as wet wipes and sanitary products, were found on 73% of the beaches surveyed across England.  

A new DEFRA report, Ocean Literacy in England and Wales, shows that 85% of people say marine protection is personally important to them. Yet this is being ignored. 

Emma Dearnaley, Legal Director at the Good Law Project, said: “The Marine Conservation Society is at the forefront of tackling the ocean emergency and standing up for coastal communities impacted by climate change and pollution. We are delighted to have them on board as a co-claimant. 

“Good Law Project will work closely with the claimants, including the Marine Conservation Society, to put forward the case for more ambitious and urgent measures to reduce sewage discharges by water companies. These sewage spills are threatening human health, biodiverse marine life and the fishing industry. We believe that taking legal action now is vital to help safeguard our coastal waters for generations to come”. 

If the case is won, the Marine Conservation Society hopes to see the UK Government amend its Plan so that it meets the DEFRA Secretary of State’s legal obligations to protect the ocean and its inhabitants from raw sewage spills.   

For more visit the Marine Conservation Society website.

Header image credit: Natasha Ewins

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