Martha’s Vineyard partners free entangled leatherback

Bret Stearns and the crew from USCG Station Menemsha. Video still courtesy of USCG Station Menemsha.

On Sunday October 1, the Center for Coastal Studies Emergency Hotline received a report of an entangled leatherback turtle gear off Cuttyhunk.

CCS contacted our partners on Martha’s Vineyard, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah Natural Resources Department; Department Director Bret Stearns responded immediately and was transported to the location by a duty crew from the USCG Station Menemsha.

The 5-foot long adult leatherback was entangled in a lobster pot line with ten or more pots attached. The weight of the pots kept the animal anchored in place, but it had enough slack on the line to move freely and would dive to avoid contact with the rescuers.

Mr. Stearns and the USCG crew spent more than an hour removing the multiple tight wraps of line from around the turtle’s left flipper and neck. The animal swam away quickly as soon as it was completely free of all the gear.

A video of the release is posted on the Facebook pages of both the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah Natural Resources Department  and USCG Station Menemsha.

CCS is grateful to everyone who assisted in this successful response:

The mariner who reported the entanglement then stood by until the USCG vessel arrived.

Bret Stearns, Director of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah Natural Resources Department Department.

The 29238 boat crew from USGC Station Menemsha: COXN: BM2 Joseph Queen; Crew: MK3 Shaquille Reed, BM3 Travis VonDessonneck, and SN David Galan.

Pictured in the video are Bret Stearns and MK3 Reed. Video provided by BM2 Joseph Queen.

To report an entanglement, please call the Marine Animal Entanglement Hotline (1-800-900-3622) or hail the USCG on VHF16.