Recent research has shown a worryingly steep increase in the premature death of green turtles, a species of sea creature that are already endangered. A high percentage of these deaths are the devastating result of bycatch; when turtles and other large animals are accidentally caught in large dragnets, before being discarded back into the sea by fishermen. The injuries caused by these giant fishing nets mean that turtles unfortunate enough to be snagged simply aren’t equipped to survive when released back into their natural habitat, causing them to drown and eventually wash up onto beaches such as the one captured in ‘Dinner Time’, an unsettling photograph captured by Canadian photographer Nick Hawkins.
A recent visit to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery resurfaced my concerns about the dangers of dragnet fishing, with Hawkins’ image sticking in my mind as a particularly harsh reminder of its consequences. The photograph, which was shortlisted in one of the top 50 wildlife photographs of 2014, depicts the carcass of a green turtle being dissected by hungry vultures on a Costa Rican beach, highlighting not only the dog-eat-dog nature of the natural world, but the devastating consequences of irresponsible fishing techniques.
Whilst an increase in deaths of large sea creatures might be brilliant news for hungry vultures circling shorelines in search of dinner, these deaths are ultimately completely unnecessary and could easily be avoided with alternative fishing methods, such as cast-nets.
A chat with Sandy Plankton taught me that green turtles are one of very few species of animal on this planet to live to up to 150 years old and have existed in our seas for over 370 million years, yet we are now allowing their lives to be needlessly snatched, simply in the name of fishing. Green turtles are already endangered, a problem for which dragnet fishing is hugely to blame. It is therefore our duty as humans to take a stand for these vulnerable and innocent creatures, ensuring that dragnet fishing is brought to a halt and far more environmentally-friendly methods are introduced.
We might well enjoy the low prices of supermarket-sold fish and prawns caught by large trawl-nets, but is that really more important than the lives of one of our planet’s longest-surviving species?