TIGBAUAN, Iloilo – Limited knowledge on proper protocols in rescuing and releasing turtles among communities is a problem that needs immediate action, according to Stephanie Nys.
Nys, an American Peace Corps volunteer assigned in this town and marine biology major, wants to let the people of nearby coastal communities know the proper protocols to observe when discovering trapped or washed-up turtles.
“My goal is to teach officials of fisherfolk association for them to know the proper way of handling washed-up or injured sea turtles,” said Nys, who conducted a short seminar at FishWorld aquarium-museum of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center’s Aquaculture Department.
Urgency is important in rescuing sea turtles – a trapped turtle with no apparent injuries needs to be immediately released back to the ocean to increase its chance of survival, Nys said.
Being away from the ocean for a long time “will likely stress sea turtles,” she said. “Stressed turtles tend to lose their appetite and, eventually, their energy to survive in the wild.”
Turtles with apparent injuries may be taken to SEAFDEC-AQD’s FishWorld for treatment and rehabilitation, Nys said.
During the rescue, cover the sea turtle’s head and find a shelter with cooler temperature. Exposure to direct sunlight will put the turtle at risk, she said.
“The good thing about SEAFDEC-AQD is that they recognized the urgency of releasing sea turtles into the wild,” said Nys.
SEAFDEC-AQD rehabilitates and releases almost 10 rescued sea turtles every year. Keeping sea turtles longer in an artificial environment will lessen their chance of survival because they will get used to being tended and fed.
Protocols learned from the seminar were enhanced by demonstrating the release of two rescued sea turtles – Mary and Manuela – to the Tigbauan shores.
While rescued in two separate occasions, both were found trapped in fish corrals. Mary, a female juvenile green sea turtle, was rescued in Buyu-an coast while Manuela, a female juvenile Olive ridley sea turtle, was found in Baguingin coast. They were immediately released back to their natural habitat.
Nys is willing to continue her partnership with SEAFDEC-AQD in spreading awareness on how to properly rescue sea turtles.
“I am willing to work with SEAFDEC-AQD in this endeavor again. I also want to bring this awareness to every coastal barangay in Tigbauan so this information can reach every member of the fisherfolk association and the community,” she said./PN