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TurtlesA total of six healthy marine turtles have recently been released back into their natural environment after many months of rehabilitation at the San Lucjan Fisheries Centre in Marsaxlokk. The six turtles, whose serious injuries would have jeopardised their chances of survival in the wild, had been brought to the centre to have their injuries nursed and slowly start a rehabilitation programme under the watchful eye of the experts within the centre.
Nicknamed George, Xavi, Martina, Angel, Corky and Rocky, the six turtles had been brought to the centre by fishermen, MEPA officials, eNGOs and the Armed Forces of Malta. The turtles have been under the medical care of Dr Anthony Gruppetta, cared for by Mr Charles Sammut and volunteers from Nature Trust Malta.
Marine turtles have been on this planet for over 200 million years but are faced with almost insurmountable challenges that are threatening them with extinction. Pollution, alteration of their habitat, depletion of their prey species, incidental capture in fishing are amongst the major threats, but action is being taken to rescue and rehabilitate as many of these sea creatures as possible.
As the responsible authority for the protection of wildlife, MEPA has a very important role in the conservation and protection of these marine reptiles. The legislation protecting them has been in existence since 1992, while a local Action Plan for conserving turtles was drafted and is currently being updated. The Authority has also teamed up with the Fisheries Department to disseminate an informative booklet to mariners on how to handle turtles when they are found injured at sea or incidentally caught in fishing equipment.
Nowadays a conservation measure targeting marine biodiversity, which is found to be effective in reaching conservation goals, is the designation of marine protected areas.
While the San Lucjan Fisheries Centre is doing an excellent job in rehabilitating such injured endangered species, the Ecosystems Management Unit within MEPA is embarking on an extensive programme for further studies of the population of the marine turtles incidentally caught in the Maltese territorial waters, and has also been involved in providing samples for more in-depth studies for DNA fingerprinting.

Furthermore, a protocol is also being finalised so that immediate action and attention can be given to beached, wounded and other marine turtles in need of urgent assistance. The Ecosystem Management Unit is also in close contact with eNGOs to be in a better position to achieve its aims for the enhanced conservation of marine turtles.
How you can help save the turtles!
- do not litter our marine environment and our seas, particularly with plastic bags;
- Do not release balloons to mark the event as they generally end up in the sea, and are often wallowed by turtles and other marine creatures, often proving to be fatal;
- If you see a turtle which is stranded or injured contact MEPA’s 24 hour emergency service on  2069 9595.