On July 8th, a loggerhead turtle which was named “Gloria” was found entangled in drifting fishing gear (ghost gear) in the waters surrounding Cabrera Island by Save The Med’s expedition team. Shortly after her recovery and release, another two entangled turtles were found and rescued by the same team. “Thunderbird” was found east of Dragonera Island last Friday while “Dolça” was rescued in the area of Formentor on the Saturday. Meanwhile, Save The Med collaborators SharkMed, had rescued a juvenile entangled turtle “Rou” near Minorca.

All turtles were entangled in so-called Ghost FADs, hand made fish aggregating devices consisting of plastic bottles tied together with strings and ropes. The two turtles rescued last weekend had also swallowed a part of the entanglement. Without cutting the entanglement, the team immediately called 112 and the rescue protocol was initiated by experts from the Palma Aquarium Marine Fauna Rescue Center, a service managed by the Consortium for the recovery of the Fauna of the Balearic Islands, an entity belonging to the Ministry of the Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries.

The turtles were brought to land and the entanglements were safely removed by experienced staff at the rescue center. Tests were done to examine their overall health with hopes of releasing them back to their blue home soon.

However, the rescue team expressed concerns about the release. The increasing amount of pollution in the sea and the alarming rise in ghost gear adrift causes concern. Given the devastating rise in Ghost FADs found over the last years, scientists estimate that tens of thousands of turtles are currently facing the same fate in the western Mediterranean alone.

“While some threats such as bycatch in longlines and crude oil pollution have reduced over the years, showing that change is possible, ghost gear is a threat on the rise that requires urgent and concerted action!” says scientist Ricardo Sagarminaga from Save The Med.

The follow up of the turtles is of special relevance in times like these. Therefore, before releasing Gloria back into the open sea, a satellite tag was placed on her back in order to monitor and integrate information on her movements and oceanographic data in the multi-platform Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). The tagging is part of the “Animal Oceanographers project” which works to reduce risks and allows you to follow Gloria’s journey by visiting: http://seaturtle.socib.es/en/turtle-viewer/

Ghost fishing is a global threat to our marine environment, and therefore requires concerted effort at a global scale based on collaborative networks. For this reason, in 2020, Save The Med joined the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), the world’s largest cross-sectoral alliance committed to driving solutions to the problem of ghost fishing. By working together with GGGI, OceanCare and Fundación Palma Aquarium's Rescue Center for Marine Fauna, Save The Med is launching the new project 'MED GHOST FADS’: a networking platform for a basin-wide concerted effort between public administrations, port authorities, research institutions, marine wildlife recovery centres, fishers, diving centres and navigators.

In support of this initiative, yesterday a collaboration agreement was signed between Save The Med and, the Balearic Federation of Fishermen Associations, PORTS IB and Ports de Balears. Save The Med invites everyone who spends time at sea to join the initiative as all help is needed! Visit www.savethemed.org for more information.

If you find an entangled turtle or a Ghost FAD:

Call 112. They will put you in contact with experts who will provide instructions and make a rescue plan together with you.

NEVER cut the entanglement before consulting with experts. It can cause the death of the turtle.

NEVER turn the turtle on its back. It can lead to its death.

Be careful when grabbing/carrying the turtle, as they can bite hard.

Report any found Ghost FADs, with photo and GPS position to: ghostfads@savethemed.org

The MED GHOST FADS project is financed by the OceanCare, US Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) and LIBERA Project (SEO Birdlife - Ecoembes - Fundación Reina Sofía) and counts on the collaboration of SOCIB, UIB, NOAA and Palma Aquarium Foundation.

Learn more about our collaborators:

Fundación Palma Aquarium and Rescue Center: www.fundacionpalmaaquarium.org
Global Ghost Gear Initiative: https://www.ghostgear.org/
US Fish and Wildlife Services: https://fws.gov
OceanCare: www.oceancare.org
NOAA: https://www.noaa.gov