On July 6, the Center for Coastal Studies disentangled a large leatherback sea turtle off Sandy Neck. This was the first confirmed sea turtle entanglement in Cape Cod Bay in 2014, and the fifth for the year off Massachusetts so far.
Commercial fishermen came across the entangled turtle as they were tending gear not far away. They promptly reported the sighting to the US Coast Guard who contacted the Center for Coastal Studies Marine Animal Entanglement response team (MAER). The team was on scene within an hour.
The nearly four foot turtle had tight wraps of rope around its fore flipper from the buoy line of fishing gear. It was able to make the surface for air but was essentially anchored in place.
The team used a grappling hook to establish a work rope to the entangling gear beneath the animal. This relieved the strain on the turtle and allowed the team to bring the turtle alongside its response vessel Ibis for examination and release. The turtle had healed propeller wounds across its shell and fresh wounds from its entanglement. Despite this, the turtle was in good condition and when it was unwound from the gear by the team it swam off quickly.
Mariners are urged to report any sightings of entangled marine animals (whales and sea turtles) immediately and stand by at a safe distance. Mariners can call the USCG on channel 16 or the CCS response hotline at 1-800-900-3622. Entanglement is a leading cause of mortality for endangered whales and sea turtles. Any help from mariners in reporting and standing by has important conservation value.
CCS would like to thank the fishermen for this report, and all Commonwealth residents with Massachusetts Environmental Trust license plates, the purchase of which allows the MET to provide vital financial support to the at-sea work of the MAER team.
The Centerâ€™s disentanglement operations are conducted in partnership with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under federal permits issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Support for the Marine Animal Response Team also comes from grants from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, the Pegasus Foundation, the Hermann Foundation, the Mary P. Dolciani Halloran Foundation, and contributions from CCS members.
The Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving coastal and marine ecosystems and promoting the responsible stewardship of our oceans.