August 27, 2016
The Marine Animal Entanglement Response team (MAER) at the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) disentangled two leatherback sea turtles today in Cape Cod Bay. Reported sightings of leatherbacks have increased in the last few days, likely indicating that they have moved in to local waters to forage for jellyfish. Mariners are urged to keep an eye out for entangled sea turtles, report the sighting immediately and stay with the animal at a safe distance until responders arrive.
The first entanglement report today came from a commercial fisherman working off Billingsgate Shoal, Wellfleet at around 9am. The fisherman stood by the turtle while the MAER team made its way down from Provincetown. They found a relatively small leatherback, likely around 400 pounds, caught by its neck and front flippers in a buoy line. The turtle was able to make the surface well and its ability to breathe and dive was not hindered. The team used a grappling thrown into the gear beneath the turtle to bring the turtle alongside the response vessel. The turtle was measured and scanned for identification tags. As this was happening the team received a report from recreational boaters of another entangled turtle off Pamet Harbor, Truro. The team carefully unwound the turtle from its entanglement and headed north for the second turtle.
Much as the first, this animal was relatively small and caught by its neck and front flippers. The turtle had dragged its first entanglement into two other gear sets. Unlike the first turtle, this one was much more active. Eventually the team was able to disentangle this turtle in the same manner as the first. Both turtles had relatively minor apparent injuries from their entanglements and are expected to recover well.
The team was aided by a colleague from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The team is grateful to the mariners who reported the entanglements. Boaters who find entangled leatherbacks should stay with the turtle at a safe distance and immdeiately report the sighting to the USCG on Channel 16 or the CCS hotline at 1-800-900-3622.
CCS disentanglement operations are conducted in partnership with Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries 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.