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Return to the sea


“80% of the turtles we treat recover and can be returned to the marine environment”

Guillem Figueras, Operations manager at Fundació CRAM

It wasn’t a long or transcendental conversation. Nothing epic here. That morning, Guillem Figueras, who grew up in a house less than a hundred metres from the beach, went into the kitchen almost resolved to accept a permanent contract as a salesman. Breakfast was ready, his dad sitting across the table from him. After laying out his arguments, Guillem received a nine-word response that was more than enough: “You have the rest of your life for that,” said his father. And everything changed. Guillem didn’t take the job, instead he began volunteering at the Rehabilitation Centre for Sea Animals (CRAM) and ended up leading one of its most important projects: the sea turtle clinic and rescue. Today, he feels he has rekindled his connection with the sea, and the decision he made six years ago makes more sense with every release. 





Hundreds of cetaceans, sea birds and, above all, turtles, are found along the shores of Catalonia with injuries or illnesses caused by human interaction. “Pollution, toxic discharge and accidental capture are the biggest threats,” warns Guillem Figueras, Operations Manager at Fundació CRAM. The clinic and rescue project cares for and rehabilitates these endangered species at the foundation’s facilities so they can be reintroduced into their habitat as soon as possible. “We also show our visitors the full process that the animals undergo, so they can empathise with them and understand the issues at hand, because if you don’t see it, it doesn’t seem real,” stresses Guillem



The CRAM foundation has a cutting-edge rehabilitation centre, a rescue vehicle and a technical team made up of professionals who can provide an immediate and permanent response. However, they can’t do it alone. Guillem Figueras is well aware of this: “Fishermen are our eyes on the sea, and they have a tremendous capacity to create a positive impact on the ecosystem.” It is they who rescue each injured turtle, inform the CRAM team and perform a preliminary assessment of the animal’s behaviour. They are also the ones who name the turtles and release them once the rehabilitation process at the centre is over.



“The first thing we do is perform a clinical diagnosis of the animal,” explains Guillem as he walks the foundation’s corridors. Blood tests, physical examination, X-rays and, if necessary, treatment in a hyperbaric chamber. These are typically the first steps for each injured turtle taken in by CRAM. From this point, a personalised treatment period begins that goes beyond just veterinary care, and the work done by the volunteers is essential for this: “They are the soul of the project, doing anything from preparing the animals’ food and monitoring their progress to actively participating in each release,” stresses Figueras. 




Every release is a day for celebration, believes Guillem, who still remembers the names (Kiwi and Klauss) of the first two turtles he returned to sea. It isn’t easy, because in the six years that the project has been running, the foundation has successfully rehabilitated and freed more than 600 turtles. “Every one of them was given a name,” he mentions as he tells us about the importance of correctly controlling the water temperature and implanting a chip into each turtle before the fisherman who found them are entrusted with releasing them into the sea. It’s just an instant, barely a few seconds, but it’s more than enough for everyone involved: “In that moment you realise that, through your time and effort, you’re helping to fix a small part of something that’s much bigger than yourself.”



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