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Charles returns turtles to sea after warning of plastics threat to marine life

The Prince of Wales addressed a global conference on safeguarding the world’s oceans.

The Prince of Wales has released a turtle made ill by plastic back into the sea after condemning the proliferation of the waste material in the world’s oceans.

Charles placed the female loggerhead turtle on to the golden sand at a beach in Malta after warning that the threat to the planet’s marine ecology has reached a critical point where plastics are “now on the menu”.

Speaking at an ocean conservation conference, the Prince highlighted how plastics were increasingly found in fish caught for the dinner table.

In his keynote address, he told delegates at the Our Ocean conference in St Julian’s: “As many of you know so well, the eight million tonnes of plastic that enter the sea every year – through our own doing I might add – is now almost ubiquitous.

“For all the plastic that we have produced since the 1950s that has ended up in the ocean is still with us in one form or another, so that wherever you swim there are particles of plastic near you and we are very close to reaching the point when whatever wild-caught fish you eat will contain plastic.

“Plastic is indeed now on the menu.”

Later, he watched as the turtle, named Denise and estimated to be 18 years old, made her way into the water at Golden Bay, after recovering from breathing problems caused by plastic she had eaten.

Standing on the beach in his tailored suit and shirt and tie, Charles also helped to release two other loggerheads, also cared for by the Nature Trust Malta, which had both been snagged by fishing hooks.

He first picked an eight-year-old turtle named Tomisina, who had had a fishing hook removed from her throat – probably caused by trying to eat fish used for bait – and then helped Kirby, aged 15, who had a hook removed from a flipper.

When Kirby moved slowly along the sands and stopped, the Prince joked: “As long as it doesn’t turn turtle – it’s so marvellous.”

Loggerhead turtles can live to be more than 50 years old and are found off the waters around Malta, but are becoming increasingly scarce.

Vincent Attard, executive president of Nature Trust Malta which nursed the turtles back to health, hosted Charles’ visit to the beach and said: “These are endangered animals and they face a lot of problems – out of every 100 eggs laid only one makes it to an adult.”

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The Prince of Wales at the Our Ocean conference ( Steve Parsons/PA)

He added that plastics in the Mediterranean was an issue his not-for-profit organisation was increasingly seeing in the animals brought to their attention.

During his speech to the Our Ocean conference, Charles highlighted the ”unimaginably painful” decision Canada took 25 years ago of closing a fishery, to protect northern cod stocks, that was on the verge of collapse after over fishing and mismanagement.

The heir to the throne added: “Surely we must take equally far-sighted steps to deal with plastic pollution or illegal and over exploitative fishing, or indeed ocean acidification, especially as our ability to fine-tune and accurately monitor implementation has been hugely enhanced by advances in satellite capability.”

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