NOAA Posts Sea Turtle Release Guidelines

 

The crew discovered the turtle and safely freed it without incident. Photo/U.S. Coast Guard by Coast Guard Cutter Juniper.
The crew discovered the turtle and safely freed it without incident. Photo/U.S. Coast Guard by Coast Guard Cutter Juniper.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is asking boaters to be on the lookout for sea turtles this summer. Five sea turtle species—green, hawksbill (rare visitor to our region), Kemp’s ridley, leatherback, and loggerhead turtles—are found in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean. All are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

When on the water, use caution around aggregations of jellyfish, which are leatherback prey.

If you encounter an entangled or injured turtle, NOAA asks that you follow the recommendations below to reduce injuries to yourself and the turtle.

  1. First, call your local stranding network responder (http://www.nero.noaa.gov/prot_res/stranding/ST%20map/), the Coast Guard on Channel 16, or NOAA Fisheries Marine Animal Hotline at (866) 755-6622.
  2. Keep your hands away from the turtle’s mouth and flippers.

While waiting for the responder:

  1. Secure the turtle.

If fishing from a pier or land, use a net or lift by the shell to bring the turtle onshore. Do not lift by the hook or by pulling on the line. If the turtle is too large to net or lift, try to walk it to the beach.

If fishing from a vessel and the turtle is small enough to lift safely, use a landing net or lift by the shell to bring the turtle on board.

  1. When you have control of the sea turtle, use blunt scissors or a knife to cut the line. Leave at least 2’ of line to allow for dehooking by trained responders.
  2. Leave the hook in place, as removing it could cause more harm.
  3. Keep the turtle out of direct sunlight, and cover the shell with a damp towel. If on land, wait for the response team to arrive. If on the water, please follow the instructions you receive from the response team.
  4. If you cannot reach the response team and are unable to bring the turtle to shore or on your vessel, cut the line as short as possible before releasing the turtle.

Report any sea turtles or large whales that are injured, entangled in other gear, stranded on the beach, or floating dead to the USCG on Channel 16 or the NOAA hotline at 866-755-NOAA(6622).