Entangled Turtle Freed in Cape Cod Bay

Photo credit: CCS image under NOAA/NMFS Permit # 50 CFR 222-310.  The Marine Animal Entanglement Response team from the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown work to free a leatherback turtle from fishing gear.

Photo credit: CCS image under NOAA/NMFS Permit # 50 CFR 222-310.
The Marine Animal Entanglement Response team from the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown work to free a leatherback turtle from fishing gear.

PROVINCETOWN – Staffers from the Center for Coastal Studies disentangled a large leatherback sea turtle off Sandy Neck Sunday.

This is the first confirmed sea turtle entanglement in Cape Cod Bay in 2014, and the fifth for the year off Massachusetts so far, according to the center.

Commercial fishermen came across the entangled turtle as they were tending gear not far away.

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They reported the sighting to the US Coast Guard who contacted the Center for Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement response team. The team was on scene within an hour.

The nearly four-foot turtle had tight wraps of rope around its fore flipper from the buoy line of fishing gear.

It was able to make the surface for air but was essentially anchored in place.

The team used a grappling hook to establish a work rope to the entangling gear beneath the animal.

This relieved the strain on the turtle and allowed the team to bring the turtle alongside its response vessel Ibis for examination and release.

The turtle had healed propeller wounds across its shell and fresh wounds from its entanglement.

Despite this, the turtle was in good condition and when it was unwound from the gear by the team it swam off quickly.

CCS image under NOAA/NMFS Permit # 50 CFR 222-310.  The Marine Animal Entanglement Response team from the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown work to free a leatherback turtle from fishing gear.

CCS image under NOAA/NMFS Permit # 50 CFR 222-310.
The Marine Animal Entanglement Response team from the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown work to free a leatherback turtle from fishing gear.

Mariners are urged to report any sightings of entangled marine animals, usually whales and sea turtles, immediately and stand by at a safe distance.

Mariners can call the US Coast Guard on channel 16 or the Center for Coastal Studies response hotline at 1-800-900-3622.

Entanglement is a leading cause of mortality for endangered whales and sea turtles. Any help from mariners in reporting and standing by has important conservation value.

The Center’s disentanglement operations are conducted in partnership with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under federal permits issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service.