The Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) disentangled a leatherback sea turtle yesterday afternoon outside of Provincetown Harbor. The very large turtle had multiple wraps of rope around its neck and was dragging heavy fishing gear. The turtle was reported by the Dolphin Fleet whale watch as it was returning to port.
The Marine Animal Entanglement Response team (MAER) at CCS was already at sea when the report came in and their response time was very quick. The team found a very large (approximately 500 pounds), male leatherback sea turtle struggling to keep itself at the surface for air. The team used a grappling hook to support the gear and relieve the strain on the turtle. This allowed the turtle to remain at the surface long enough for the team to carefully unwind multiple tight wraps of its neck and fore flippers. The turtle swam off quickly, free of gear. This is the 16th confirmed sea turtle entanglement case off Massachusetts in 2014.
Entanglement reports of this species may increase over the coming weeks as leatherbacks from further north begin their migration south. All mariners are urged to keep watch for entangled marine animals and to immediately report sightings to the Marine Animal Entanglement Response Hotline (1-800-900-3622) or the US Coast Guard, then stand by the animal at a safe distance until trained responders arrive.
CCCS 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 the Massachusetts Environmental Trust and contributions from CCS members.