Center for Coastal Studies frees endangered leatherback turtle from life-threatening entanglement – record numbers reported/rescued this season

Monday, September 23, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: PCCS Contact:
Cathrine Macort
+1-508-487-3622 x103
+1-508-808-9660
cmacort@coastalstudies.org

Responders from the Center for Coastal Studies and the USCG work to free an entangled leatherback turtle. PCCS image under Permit # 50 CFR 222.310.

Responders from the Center for Coastal Studies and the USCG work to free an entangled leatherback turtle. PCCS image under Permit # 50 CFR 222.310.

A large leatherback sea turtle was disentangled today in Nantucket Sound by the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies’ Marine Animal Entanglement Response team (MAER) and the US Coast Guard. This turtle was one of 18 leatherbacks freed so far this season by the Massachusetts Sea Turtle Disentanglement Network (MASTDN), a consortium of first responders trained and equipped to handle these endangered species.

The turtle was anchored in the buoy line of fishing gear, just offshore of Hyannis, and was found by commercial fishermen who offered to stand by the struggling animal. Coast Guard station Chatham responded quickly with a team member from MAER at the Center for Coastal Studies. They found a 500 pound animal with an extremely tight wrap of the right front flipper. The turtle was carefully disentangled, leaving no rope on its body that could pose a threat to the turtle over time.

This was the 44th sea turtle entanglement recorded by MASTDN this season – a record number, though the season may last well into October. Between 2005 and 2010 the network recorded an average of 13 live and dead sea turtle entanglement cases per season off Massachusetts. In 2012, this number climbed to 37, with reports coming in from June through October. The reasons for this increase in 2012 and 2013 are unclear and likely complex, perhaps tied to changes in sea turtle distribution and increased efforts by the disentanglement network to solicit entanglement reports.

As leatherbacks begin their southward migration, mariners are urged to report entanglement sightings as quickly as possible (to the USCG on channel 16 or to the MAER hotline at 1-800-900-3622). Please stand by the animal at a safe distance and do not attempt disentanglement; leatherbacks are federally protected and strong enough to pull a person under.

The MAER team at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies would like to thank the many mariners who reported and stood by entangled turtles this season and to the following organizations for their generous help responding to these reports: Harbormasters and/or Department of Natural Resource staff from the towns of Dennis, Falmouth, Menemsha, Nantucket, Provincetown and Wellfleet; the US Coast Guard, especially the stations at Brant Point, Chatham, Menemsha and Woods Hole; the Massachusetts Environmental Police; and staff from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, New England Aquarium, Northeast Fisheries Science Center and Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

PCCS disentanglement operations are conducted in partnership with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), under the authority of the US Endangered Species Act (50 CFR 222.310). Support for the Marine Animal Response Team also comes from NMFS, the Massachusetts Environmental Trust and contributions from PCCS members.

The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving coastal and marine ecosystems and promoting the responsible stewardship of our oceans. For more information contact www.coastalstudies.org or www.facebook.com/coastalstudies.