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A sad sea turtle story

snorkeler with sea turtle
April 12, 2022

While working as a divemaster on a private charter in March, Capt Glenn and I tried to save a beautiful green sea turtle that had been struck badly by a boat early in the day.

It was a Saturday afternoon and we were out at Davis Ledge (near Molasses Reef) with our Baltimore Snowbirds. We’d just descended for our first dive of the day when Glenn noticed a large turtle near the surface. He grabbed his mask, snorkel and fins and hopped in to say hi.

I saw him from below and started the Gopro rolling to capture another magic moment like the one that has been viewed over 41,000 times on our Facebook page*.

But this time was different. 

Glenn started signalling that the turtle had been injured and I surfaced to see what I could do to help.

Sharp gashes along the turtle’s side looked life-threatening and we made the decision to do everything we could to get her some help.

A US Coast Guard vessel from nearby Station Islamorada was alongside us in a matter of minutes. They transferred the injured animal to shore where an ambulance from the Turtle Hospital in Marathon was waiting.

Coast Guard transferring turtle between boats

Everyone did everything we could to save her but the strike was so bad the it had severed her internal organs.

When I called the Turtle Hospital later in the day, they told me she’d been a healthy adult female sea turtle. They also said they see more fatal boat strikes this time of year as mama turtles head toward shore to nest. Which made me even more sad (if that could be possible) that she didn’t make it.

Losing this healthy sea turtle is a loss for all of us.

Sea turtles are critical to the biodiversity of the ocean. They are a major contributor to a healthy coral reef ecosystem. But population numbers are decreasing and boat strikes account for 20% of sea turtle deaths. 

Injured sea turtle on board a boat

Whether you live by the ocean or not, you can protect the sea turtles by

  • reducing marine debris
  • participating in coastal clean ups
  • reducing plastic use
  • refraining from releasing balloons

All of these can entangle turtles and be eaten by turtles at the surface.

This experience reminded me why I chose to move here to the Florida Keys.

I did it so that I could be on the water and underwater because for me it’s the most peaceful place to be, it’s where I feel at home, and it’s where I can contribute to reducing my environmental impact and bring awareness to others about the importance of our oceans and what lives in the ocean.

In honor of Buddha (yes I named her!) I am going to vow to do better at being or having a designated marine life spotter on the boat moving forward. 

Something to think about- in Hindu mythology, it is believed that of the sea turtle disappears, the world will end. Perhaps we all need to vow to do something a little better.

Stephanie S.
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