The crew of a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship have cleaned a Caribbean beach on a mission to save the lives of endangered sea turtles.
Personnel from RFA Argus are in the region as part of a task group, providing hurricane relief, maritime security and counter illicit trafficking operations.
During a maintenance stop on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao, Argus’ crew members volunteered to assist local authorities to clear waste from the shoreline.
An increase in plastic litter is threatening the island’s famous sea turtle population. The animals can get trapped inside containers, and the debris makes their nesting sites uninhabitable.
The helpers headed for San Pedro on the northern shore – an area particularly badly hit – to help the Curaçao Turtle Sanctuary.
Lieutenant Annie Sykes, 845 Naval Air Squadron, said: "I was shocked to see all the plastic that had washed up.
"We were all tired at the end of the clean but it was rewarding too.
"It was good to assist with conservation of the local environment and it made me think about the plastic I use – even the straw in my next drink.
"We did what we could, but I will remember the sad state of that beach forever."
In addition to removing dangerous items such as nets or bottles, personnel identified items which could be recycled.
They also filled up containers with fresh sea water, which were taken to a local vet’s practice where injured or vulnerable turtles are being treated.
The Curaçao Turtle Sanctuary works with a local organisation called Green Phenix, which aims to deal with the plastic problem through education and reducing usage.
They also sort and recycle collected plastic for use in 3D printing machines.
More recently, they have produced PPE equipment for the island and wider region, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Andy Moorehouse, a RFA cadet, said: "It was hard work at the beach, there was so much plastic but I was glad to get stuck in.
"It was really interesting to hear how much of the plastic can be sorted and re-used.”
Following the work in Curaçao, RFA Argus headed back out to sea to continue working with the Royal Navy task group in the region.
Cover image: Crew members of RFA Argus help to remove plastic waste from a beach on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao (Picture: Royal Navy).