A 217-pound sea turtle had to be rescued off the Florida Panhandle, after closer inspection revealed it was dragging enough fishing gear to outfit a tour group.
This includes fishing rods, hooks, weights and spools of fishing line, according to the Gulfarium CARE Center in Fort Walton Beach.
The loggerhead’s plight was discovered Tuesday, July 5, after she “was foul hooked” by anglers, the Okaloosa Island Pier reported. The pier is in Fort Walton Beach, about 165 miles west of Tallahassee.
“She had two rods and lots fishing line and even a portion of a tire trailing behind her,” the pier wrote in a Facebook post.
“We cannot be thankful enough for our staff and a few local anglers for stepping up to rescue this big gal! Our staff had to go swimming with the Gulfarium (CARE Center) stranding team to get her in!”
A photo shows the turtle was hauled in the bed of a pickup truck to the Gulfarium CARE Center.
Tabitha Siegfried, stranding coordinator for the center, told McClatchy News the fishing gear was tangled around her right front flipper.
Closer inspection revealed the knot included “10 or more fishing hooks.” However, only one hook was embedded in the turtle’s skin, and it has since been removed, Siegfried said.
It is suspected the fishing rods had been attached to the turtle for a couple of weeks. Had the turtle not been spotted in time, the lines could have tightened, leading to the flipper falling off, she said.
The case is an example of why anglers should never “cut their line” if it gets entangled with a sea turtle of any kind, she said.
Gulfarium CARE Center is a nonprofit in Fort Walton Beach that “promotes rehabilitation and release of all stranded sea turtle species.” It has rescued nearly 85 endangered sea turtles so far this year.
Loggerheads are the most common species in the region and April to September is their nesting season, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
There was no evidence the rescued turtle had been nesting, but she is sexually mature, Siegfried said. (Sexual maturity comes between 25 and 30 years of age for the species, she said.)
Adult loggerheads can weigh up to 350 pounds and live “70 years or more,” according to NOAA Fisheries.