Two loggerhead turtles were recently admitted into the care of the National Aquarium Animal Rescue after having been hooked by fishing gear.
Portsmouth and Niagra arrived from the Virginia Aquarium yesterday afternoon, and were met with full medical exams and a new pool. Both turtles were brought to the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Center because they had been hooked by fishing gear on a local pier. The fisherman did the best thing for the turtles by calling their local rescue team, who gladly took in the turtles and stabilized them before calling us for a transfer. After quite a ride up to the National Aquarium, Portsmouth and Niagra were ready to go back into the water. They have started a round of antibiotics, which is routine, and will have radiographs taken later this week to check those areas where they were hooked.
Hook injuries like these are not uncommon . Season after season, you will hear animal rescue facilities along the coastlines talking about safe viewing of marine animals and helping stranded or injured marine animals in their local areas. As protected species, there are federal laws that protect these animals from human activities such as harassment, poaching, hunting, killing, feeding, and touching within our waterways; however, reporting suspicious incidents, entanglement cases, and sightings or strandings of these animals is not a crime against them…it is actually helping them!
With summer in full swing, and boaters constantly out on the waters, we would like to take this time to talk about sea turtle safety and how YOU can help save them! First, we understand that it is not always easy to spot sea turtles in the open water, as they will only surface for a breath of air. This means that a hint of their carapace (shell) and their head will appear out of the water for a few seconds. Sea turtles are not basking turtles, so you will not find them lounging on rocks or beaches to rest. Spring and summer are often the months where we see an increase in boat strike injuries because of these subtle sightings. Another increase that we see is hook ingestion and entanglement cases that involve fishing gear and marine debris. There are ways to help save these animals, most of which are simple and thoughtful for all marine life!
If you capture a sea turtle while fishing in local waters, immediately contact the appropriate response team and await further instruction. Locally, these teams can be reached at:
Maryland, National Aquarium: 410-373-0083
Delaware, MERR Institute: 302-228-5029
Virginia, Virginia Aquarium: 757-385-7575
NOAA Fisheries Hotline: 1-866-755-6622
While you wait for the response team to arrive, here are a few things to remember:
- Keep your hands away from the turtle’s mouth and flippers.
- Use a net or the shell to lift the animal onto land/pier, or into a boat. Do NOT lift the animal via hook or pull on the line. If the turtle is too large, try to guide it to the beach.
- When you have control of the animal, use blunt scissors/knife to cut the line, leaving at least 2 feet of line.
- Leave the hook in place, as removing it could cause further damage. NEVER take the hook out on your own and release the animal. The response team wants to make sure that the turtle is safe before releasing it back into the wild.
- Keep the turtle out of direct sunlight, and cover the shell with a damp towel.
The response team will communicate with you to retrieve the animal for treatment and an exam. We take every precaution to make sure that these animals go back into their natural environment with the best chance possible at survival, and we would like you to join us in this effort by simply educating yourself on the laws for their protection, visiting our website for further insight, and using safe boating practices!
Stay tuned for updates on Portsmouth and Niagra’s stay with the Animal Rescue team!