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Shocking images highlight importance of marine conservation work

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This week, marine conservation charity the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) was shocked to find not one but two turtles severely hurt as a result of human activity.

One of the charity’s volunteers – Genaye Domenico – was scuba diving with Peri-Peri Divers in Tofo Beach, Mozambique, when they came across a juvenile hawksbill turtle caught in plastic. Genaye and Peri-Peri dive instructor Helen Armstrong worked together to quickly free the turtle and release it back to the ocean.

Soon after, they found a loggerhead sea turtle – still alive – with a speargun piercing its neck. They carefully took hold of the injured turtle and were able to remove the spear. Luckily, the spear didn’t seem to have pierced any vital organs and, once returned to the ocean free of the painful spear, the turtle dived down and swam away.

Marine Megafauna Foundation volunteer Genaye Domenico, 30, who was on the boat, said: “Today, while on the way back in from my dive with Peri-Peri Divers, we spotted a juvenile hawksbill turtle tangled in a plastic woven bag which we cut loose. Quickly after, we found a young loggerhead sea turtle with a spear through its neck. We were able to grab the loggerhead, lift it into the boat and secure the turtle while we awaited a second boat to deliver us wire cutters, as the spear was fully attached to the spear gun. Wire cutters were delivered, the spear was cut, pulled through the neck, and the loggerhead was released to the sea. Both turtles, after being helped, immediately dove deep into the sea. The spear has been given to the police.”

The area’s Community Fisheries Council (CCP) – represented in this situation by Mr. Songane – and coastal police were quick to respond, taking the speargun into evidence and launching an investigation.

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, loggerhead turtles are currently listed as vulnerable and hawksbill turtles are critically endangered. These horrific images highlight how not only plastic but other human activities threaten these beautiful but endangered creatures.

Jess Williams, Marine Conservation Biologist and Director of Tartarugas Para o Amanhã/ Mozturtles, said: “Despite legal protection for sea turtles within Mozambique, illegal take is still widespread. Small scale fisheries (SSF) are extensive throughout coastal waters along Mozambique’s entire 2,700 km coastline, which happens to be the habitat for five of the seven species of sea turtles. Sadly, targeted hunting by spear-fishers and opportunistic by-catch is an ongoing problem and we believe hunting pressures on sea turtles may be increasing.

According to Mozturtles, October to February is nesting season for loggerhead turtles from Bazaruto Archipelago south to Ponta do Ouro Marine Partial Reserve. During this time, there is likely to be an increase of loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) moving into coastal waters to lay their eggs as they migrate back into the area.

“It’s particularly concerning to see animals in this life-stage facing threats such as targeted hunting, bycatch or entanglement,” Williams continued. “Turtles reach maturity around 20-30 years of age and each female lays approximately four nests in the season so mature individuals being removed from the breeding stock causes significant problems to turtle populations. It’s crucial that efforts are made to accurately quantify the impacts of SSF here in Mozambique, and in other countries in the region, to enable us to accurately understand the scale of the threat to sea turtles at a regional level.

Mariana Coelho, MMF’s Mozambique Country Director, said: “We were all shocked and saddened to find these two injured turtles in the bay within minutes of each other. Thanks to the quick responses of the volunteers and staff on the boat, these beautiful animals were able to be rescued and released back into the ocean. We expect they will now visit a cleaning station to prevent infection in their open wounds and hope both animals will recover fully.

Coelho continued: “It’s important to remember that acts like this, while shocking, are driven by extreme poverty. That’s why MMF is working to raise awareness among the local community about the importance of marine conservation as well as helping fisher families to find new, sustainable ways of generating a livelihood. We hope the police will be successful in their mission to find out who can be held accountable, that the community continues their incredible efforts in changing harmful habits and appeal to the general public for support in our work to protect our oceans from acts such as these.

MMF works with the local community in Tofo, and neighboring communities, to help them improve sustainable fishing practices and ocean conservation. The charity’s vision is a world in which marine life and humans thrive together and they aspire to attain it by saving threatened marine life.

Photo credit: Helen Armstrong, Peri-Peri Divers

For more information about MMF and how you can support, please visit their website by clicking here.

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Book Release: Diving the Thistlegorm – The Ultimate Guide to a World War II Shipwreck

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Diving the Thistlegorm is a unique in-depth look at one of the world’s best-loved shipwrecks. In this highly visual guide, cutting edge photographic methods enable views of the wreck and its fascinating cargo which were previously impossible.

This book is the culmination of decades of experience, archaeological and photographic expertise, many hours underwater, months of computer processing time, and days spent researching and verifying the history of the ship and its cargo. For the first time, Diving the Thistlegorm brings the rich and complex contents of the wreck together, identifying individual items and illustrating where they can be found. As the expert team behind the underwater photography, reconstructions and explanations take you through the wreck in incredible detail, you will discover not only what has been learned but also what mysteries are still to be solved.

Find out more about:

  • One of the world’s greatest dives.
  • Incredible ‘photogrammetry’ shows the wreck and cargo in a whole new light.
  • Meticulous detail presented in a readable style by experts in their respective fields.

About the authors:

Simon Brown is an underwater photographer and photogrammetry/3D expert who has documented underwater subjects for a wide range of clients including Historic England, Wessex Archaeology and television companies such as National Geographic Channel and Discovery Canada. Jon Henderson is Reader in Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh where he is the Director of the Underwater Archaeology Research Centre. With specific research interests in submerged prehistoric settlements and developing underwater survey techniques, he has directed underwater projects in the UK, Poland, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Jamaica and Malaysia. Alex Mustard is a former marine biologist and award-winning underwater photographer. In 2018 he was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for “Services to underwater photography”. Mike Postons pioneered the use of digital 3D modelling to visualise shipwrecks, as well as the processes of reconstructing original ships from historic plans. He has worked with a number of organisations including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Historic England and the Nautical Archaeological Society.


About the book:

  • Release date 25 November 2020
  • Limited run of Hardbacks
  • RRP £35
  • ISBN 978-1-909455-37-5
  • 240 photo-packed pages
  • 240 x 160 mm

Available to pre-order now from Divedup.com, Amazon, online, and from retailers.

Check back on Scubaverse.com for a review of the book coming soon!

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Deptherapy’s Dr Richard Cullen becomes a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society

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Dr Richard Cullen, Chairman of Scuba Diving Rehabilitation Charity Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education, has been recognised as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society is a prestigious Fellowship that is open to those who demonstrate a sufficient involvement in geography or an allied subject through publications, research or professional experience.

Paul Rose, Deptherapy’s Vice Chair, and a world renowned explorer, author, broadcaster, who is a former Vice Chair of the RGS said: 

“This is a huge achievement by Richard. His Fellowship is richly deserved, and a direct result of his steadfast commitment to preserving our oceans through Deptherapy’s very powerful ‘Protecting Our Oceans’ Programme.  I know the top team at the RGS are looking forward to welcoming Richard into the Society.”

The RGS was founded in 1830 to advance geographical research, education, fieldwork and expeditions, as well as by advocating on behalf of the discipline and promoting geography to public audiences.

Paul Toomer, President of RAID, said:

“I have been close friends with Richard for many years and his passion for our seas, even at 70 years of age, is undiminished.  Deptherapy are the world leaders in adaptive scuba diving teaching and are our much valued partners.  Taking UK Armed Forces Veterans who have suffered life changing mental and/or physical challenges and engaging them in major marine biology expeditions, is to most of us beyond the realms of possibility.  The skills these guys have to develop is just awesome.  This is a great honour for Richard, a great honour for Deptherapy, and also for us as their partners.  The diving world must come together to celebrate and acknowledge Richard’s achievement.”

Richard joins some distinguished Fellows of the RGS.  Former Fellows include Ernest Shackleton and many other notable explorers and geographers.

Richard said:

“I am both honoured and humbled to become a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. When I was invited to apply for a Fellowship, I was, which is very unusual for me, lost for words.  I hope it will allow me to take our message of Protecting Our Oceans to a larger audience and to further develop our programmes.  The Fellowship is a recognition of the charity’s work to raise awareness of the plight of our oceans.  The credit belongs to a group of individuals who have overcome massive challenges to let alone qualify as divers but now to progress to marine biology expedition diving”.

For more information about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education visit www.deptherapy.co.uk.

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