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Royal Navy sailors help save turtles in the Caribbean

9 August 2023
Royal Navy sailors cleared dangerous waste plastic from a turtle nesting site on the Caribbean island of Curaçao during a patrol of the region.

Portsmouth-based HMS Dauntless is deployed to the Caribbean to help stop drugs smugglers alongside the US Coast Guard and provide support to British Overseas Territories during hurricane season from June to November.

Fifty British sailors from the Type 45 destroyer volunteered with Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao during a logistics stop on the Dutch island, helping clear more than 200kg of ocean plastic from a nesting beach and carrying out medical checks on the turtle population.

Able Seaman Megan Page, from the Royal Navy’s Hydrography and Meteorology Branch, was among the volunteers.

She said: “The environment is very important to the Royal Navy and, with the growing impact of climate change, we are here today to conduct a beach clean-up.

“It is important to be able to work with local organisations as part of this deployment to understand the challenges faced by marine life and support where we can.”

Sea turtles often mistake plastic debris for food, leading to ingestion and internal injuries that can prove fatal.

Entanglement in discarded fishing nets and other plastic waste presents life-threatening hazards for these gentle marine creatures.

The joint effort by HMS Dauntless and Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao aims to raise awareness about the urgent need to combat ocean plastics and safeguard the biodiversity of the world’s oceans.

Ard Vreugdenhil, the Field Co-ordinator for Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao, said: “I am very happy people are more and more aware of the care we need to have for the world we are living in. We have to spread the word and be an example.

“It is good to show this example of collaboration and taking responsibility and hopefully we can continue the partnership between the Royal Navy and Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao.

“Nature deserves our helping hand and we have to reconnect with the world we are living in. Together we are the example for others and have the power needed to make a difference.”

The beach clean formed part of the ‘One Tonne Challenge’; an environmental drive aimed to get Royal Navy personnel to collectively collect one tonne of litter from their local area – it further aims to improve environmental awareness and bonds with their community.

Dr Imogen Napper, a marine scientist specialising in plastic pollution, Royal Naval Reservist and project lead for the ‘One Tonne Challenge’, added: “Whether in Curaçao, home or abroad, environmental changes affect us all.

“However, it has been shown that individual, group and organisational changes can improve our immediate environment.

“The ship’s company from Dauntless have shown this by volunteering their own personal time on a deployment and removing litter from a key turtle nesting site, helping support turtle conservation within the area.”

While visiting Curaçao, the ship’s company also visited the Commonwealth War Grave in Willemstad, paying their respects to six British service personnel who died in Curaçao during the Second World War.

HMS Dauntless will now continue her patrol countering the region’s narcotics trade and providing reassurance to British Overseas Territories as hurricane season continues.

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