Sea Turtle Release
By Valeria Obregon
During my time at Sant’Anna Institute, I’m interning at the Marine Protected Area of Punta Campanella. During my internship, I am learning about the different conservation efforts in the area while getting to know various parts of the bay, such as Baia di Iieranto, and the vast range of their work. One of their activities involves rescuing and conserving sea turtles. One of my main projects as an intern is to research the different myths and legends of sea turtles across time in different cultures to create educational material for people of all ages to understand the important role and value of sea turtles for humans. During the summer, interns from Sant’Anna Institute have the opportunity of helping with the nesting season. Even though I will not be able to participate in those activities because of the time of the year, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend a turtle release activity on March 4th.
Risk of Sea Turtle
During the winter season, turtles are more vulnerable to being captured in fishing nets because, contrary to the summer, they spend most of their time at the bottom in a state of almost hibernation. When accidentally catching a turtle as a bycatch, most fishermen tend to release it immediately, thinking they are doing a good action but don’t know that the turtle might be hurt. Many sea turtles, depending on the amount of time spent caught in the net, can get seriously stressed; another issue they can experience is an embolism, which is bubbles in their blood and organs due to a sudden change of pressure. That is why getting medical attention before releasing them into the ocean is recommended.
For the past 20 years, Marine Protected Area of Punta Campanella has been doing much work of awareness with fishermen in the Gulf of Salerno to encourage them to call the Marine Protected Area offices for help when accidentally catching a turtle instead of releasing it. As a result, the turtles have a better chance of surviving. To give the turtles the necessary help to survive. Before, fishermen didn’t know whom to call or didn’t know the risks turtles faced, but since 2007, 170 turtles have been rescued thanks to the local fishermen, Marine Protected Area of Punta Campanella, and the Turtle Point of the Anton Dhorn Zoological Station in Naples.
Osimhen was named after the famous soccer player from the Napoli team Victor Osimhen. Because of the turtle’s name, Osimhen’s story became very popular locally in the Naples area by a sector of the population that generally is not interested in conservation. On March 4th, Osimhen, the turtle, was released after being in the Turtle Rescue Center for a month. Osimhen was one of the many turtles caught up in fishermen’s nets off the coast of Salerno. Thankfully, the fisherman Antonio De Mai notified the Marine Protected Area, and they could take the turtle to Turtle Point in Naples. Usually, when turtles are taken to Turtle Point during the winter, they keep them there until April, when the water is warmer. The reason why Osimhen was released promptly was because of his characteristics. Osimhen is a large male, above average, weighs 85kg, and has 80cm of carapace, making it a good candidate for the coming mating season. Osimhen was released along with another smaller male turtle this past Saturday.
Coming into the release event, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had never attended any event as such before, so it was an inspiring opportunity. The event occurred in Seiano, a town four train stops from Sorrento. It was not publicized to prevent too many people from attending, so the attendees were mainly students and activists. Before the release, there was an environmental education talk about marine conservation for all the students and their parents. After the talk, we all made our way to the beach, where we waited. A woman diver went into the water to ensure there were no nets or buoys on the way to make turtles’ entry into the sea as smooth as possible. One, she gave the okay. The two turtles were brought in big containers to the beach. The smaller turtle was released first with the help of Domenico Sgambati, the marine professor at Sant’Anna Institute, and my internship supervisor, who helped carry the turtle to the shore. After the small one was released, Osimhen was released. The diver was still in the water to ensure their entering was going well.
In conclusion, it was a wonderful experience that I am so thankful I had. As an environmental studies major, it is tough to hear negative news daily about everything happening in the world, and it is easy to feel discouraged to keep going. But these smaller moments where one turtle was saved, treated, and released into nature give me hope to keep going. We cannot save the world in one day, but we can do one positive action to help the environment daily.