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Mariners urged to report entangled sea turtles, not release them

Massachusetts

The MAER team working to free a mature female leatherback sea turtle on July 30, 2021. The turtle was found by recreational boaters who stood by at a safe distance until the MAER team arrived. (Courtesy: CCS, NOAA permit CFR 222.310)

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. (WPRI) ─ The Marine Animal Entanglement Response (MAER) team is urging good Samaritans to not try and free entangled turtles themselves, as they could make the situation worse.

MAER at the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) in Provincetown recorded five instances of endangered leatherback turtles being released or partially released by mariners over the course of a few weeks.

However, it is believed that the released turtles may still have gear attached to them, which could ultimately lead to a slow death.

“We believe that the intentions of these mariners were very good,” Scott Landry of the CCS MAER team said. “But in all of those cases, there could have been an alternative and positive outcome.”

Leatherback sea turtles are at risk of being struck by boats or entangled by fishing gear when foraging for food. Manually releasing a sea turtle, which can weigh up to 900 pounds, could lead to a dangerous situation not only for the animal, but for mariners as well.

For that reason, the MAER team is on standby for any entanglement reports regarding sea turtles and other marine life.

“It’s been a frustrating start to the leatherback season this year,” Landry said. “We have spent many hours searching for these turtles but the odds are stacked against us. Please keep our hotline with you. Please reach out to the Coast Guard, and please stand by the turtle until we get there.”

“Realize that if an entangled turtle is discovered alive and breathing at the surface, it is not in immediate threat of drowning,” he continued. “With a bit of patience and cooperation, the prognosis for the turtle is very good.”

Any entangled marine animals should be reported to one or both of the following agencies:

  • CCS Entanglement Hotline: 800-900-3622
  • NOAA Entanglement Hotline: 866-755-NOAA (866-755-6622)

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