Wildlife Rescue at Sea

sailor on board an inflatable boat reach into the water and untangle sea turtles trapped in netting.
Crewmembers from HMCS WHITEHORSE rescue sea turtles trapped in netting in the Pacific Ocean during Operation CARIBBE on April 2, 2019. Photo: OP CARIBBE Imagery Technician

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Written by:
Captain Annie Morin, Public Affairs Officer on Operation CARIBBE

The oceans are filled with debris such as fishing nets left behind by fishing vessels, and household garbage that has made its way into the water. This non-biodegradable waste is a real danger for marine life. Animals and mammals often eat the debris mistaking them for food or simply get entangled in it, resulting for example in their inability to move about freely or even death.

Deployed on Operation CARIBBE, Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Yellowknife and Whitehorse were able to spare a total of seven sea turtles from a dire situation on four separate occasions, between April 1 and 2, 2019; an unusually high amount of rescues in such a short period of time.

It is while on routine patrol in their respective areas that the bridge teams of both ships first spotted debris before identifying sea turtles entangled in fishing net and used plastic bottles.

Debris is regularly investigated as it could be bales of drugs jettisoned by smugglers. As such, and with each ship’s respective Commanding Officer’s permission, the crews investigated the floating debris. Although there was no drugs found in these instances, the crews did find turtles ensnared. Luckily, the mission tempo permitted for the crews to rescue the turtles.

On each rescue effort, a Rigid Inflatable Boat was deployed into the water and members of Yellowknife and Whitehorse respectively drove to the locations of the turtles intertwined with the fishing net. After a while, the members were able to free the animals, cutting away the fishing net while being careful to not harm the turtles. Fortunately, all the rescued turtles were able to swim away seemingly uninjured.

“As someone who cares deeply about the environment and animal life, I am very grateful to have been able to save a turtle from a grim prospect. It was the first time at sea I was able to make a positive impact on marine life by rescuing this turtle and potentially others by removing the fishing net from the water”, commented a sailor who was part of a turtle rescue led by Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Yellowknife.

Crewed by 45 members, including members of the United States Coast Guard, HMCS Yellowknife is currently deployed along with HMCS Whitehorse on Operation CARIBBE, Canada’s contribution to Operation MARTILLO, a U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATFS) operation responsible for conducting interagency and international detection and monitoring operations and facilitating the interdiction of illicit trafficking.

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