Turtle Crusades

Turtles are where it all began for Ocean Crusaders.  Founder Ian Thomson has picked up 8 turtles from the oceans of the world, all dead.  This is how they died:

  • 2 from boat strikes
  • 2 drowned in crab pots
  • 3 from plastic suffocation or entanglement
  • 1 unknown

It was this day (photo to the right) that Ian decided that enough was enough, he needed to get the message out of the damage we are doing to our turtles, in particular with our plastic habits.

Whilst running a dive/sailing charter in the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland, Australia, Ian woke after a night of heavy rain to find thousands of pieces of rubbish floating in one of the popular dive locations.  Thousands is no exaggeration.  Good friend Onno Compeer didn’t eat breakfast, instead took to the tender to start the clean up.  After he finished, Ian took the divers to their site and continued.  This is what they collected, including the big blue barrel.

That afternoon he found this poor turtle!

The other turtle that really made the crusades kick off was one found with a plastic bag in it’s stomach.  It had formed perfectly.  Everything it ate went straight into the bag.  He starved to death.  The contents of the bag included 12 cigarette butts, half a coke can and a bottle cap.

Turtles have bones that stick backwards in their throat preventing them from regurgitating anything.  If it goes in, it has to be digested.  They cannot digest plastic.  Plastic bags get mistaken for jelly fish, a favorite source of food for turtles.  If you’ve ever seen a jelly fish getting eaten by a turtle, well I can assure you the turtle will be smiling.  I believe it is just like chocolate to us humans.

With 1,100 turtle strandings in Queensland Australia in 2011 alone and thousands more around the world being found with plastic in their stomachs, we need to make a conscious effort to clean up our act or we won’t be able to swim with these wonderful creatures in the future.

I recall my most memorable moment with a turtle.  I was diving at the outer barrier reef in Queensland.  I was with a group of divers and was just following along.  My dive instructor, good friend Tim Wuth, was looking after the divers and at one stage I could see them all signalling the turtle symbol.  I couldn’t see it.  Eventually they all swam another way and this turtle swam alongside me at the back of the group.  He stayed just a couple of meters away from me for the next 15 minutes just casually cruising along.  It was one of those beautiful moments.  It was like he was saying ‘Thanks Thommo!’.

I also wear a turtle around my neck.  It is a symbol of long life in Fiji.  They live up to 200 years yet the ‘convenient’ plastic bag can kill them in a day.

What would you prefer?



Keep rubbish out of our oceans.

Look at what you are tipping into your drains.

Everything you do today can affect turtles in the ocean tomorrow!