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Sad encounters

Pantelleria had welcomed us with a fabulous first dive: great visibility, calm weather, a murray eel soon after we had jumped in. As we were slowly making our way back to the shore I looked up and saw what seemed like a turtle. I got super excited! Occasionally there are turtles in the area but not very often. I started screaming through my regulator and waving my arms to signal to Barbora and then I shot off after what indeed turned out to be a turtle. I was taking pictures randomly in the fear that it would swim away. Although it was a bit slow even for turtle standards but I just thought it was a chilled turtle! Only as I got closer did I realize that it had a fishing line in its mouth and that the dangling line had a black plastic bag tangled around it forming a parachute and a fair amount of drag.

I put the camera down and got my shears. I tried to wriggle the line out of its mouth but failed so I cut it as close as I could to its mouth. But the line was still attached to the turtle. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the other end of the line was coming out of her anus. I cut that end off as well and off it swam at great(er) speed and I was left with a bundle of plastic and immense sadness. An amazing dive ended with the bitter taste of plastic. It isn’t the first time and won’t be the last that I see an animal bundled in garbage. The ocean is the turtle’s environment and we are littering its home. As divers we go through a lot of training. We learn to “see not touch” and only take “memories and photographs”. There is no drill on how to save wildlife from ghost nets, abandoned hooks or plastic knots. There shouldn’t be. Yet more and more often do I find myself having to help distressed marine life tangled in our trash.


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