The Department of Environment is urging the public to correctly dispose of fishing line after divers found a dead hawksbill turtle in 80 feet of water off the coast of North West Point, in West Bay. The turtle’s left flipper was wrapped in fishing line, according to the DoE.
It was found on 30 Dec. near Lighthouse Point.
“Fishing line takes over 600 years to degrade and is a danger to marine life. Cayman has seen many instances where sea turtles entangled in discarded line suffered severe flipper injuries or have even drowned,” the DoE said in a statement.
Divetech instructor Serena Evans found the turtle while diving with a colleague. She said when she first started diving, seeing sea turtles was the highlight of her dives.
“The look in the turtle’s eye when we found him was haunting. Every diver’s nightmare would be drowning underwater, and every diver knows that all marine life is sentient and the terror the turtle would have experienced whilst drowning was apparent in his eyes,” Evans said.
Evans said it looked like the fishing line had been underwater for some time, as there was coral growth on it, but she believed the turtle had died recently.
“I was training a colleague that day, and just two hours earlier we had been maybe 25 feet from where we found the corpse. I only wish we had swum a little further on the earlier dive, it may be we would have reached him on time and been able to cut him free,” Evans said.
Hawksbill turtles are critically endangered and lay very few nests in Cayman, the DoE stated.
Recycling bins for discarded fishing lines can be found at various points throughout the islands, such as at boat launching ramp and some dive shops.
“Since the Department of Environment installed its fishing line recycling bins around the islands in late 2015, we’ve collected more than 300 pounds of fishing line. Line from the bins is shipped overseas for recycling with assistance from the Department of Environmental Health and US recycler Berkley Fishing. The collected line is recycled into products such as artificial fish habitats,” the DOE said.