Since 2004, the SDRP has conducted routine prey monitoring surveys in Sarasota Bay using a purse seine. While operating this type of gear we occasionally discover more than just fish hiding inside our compass. In addition to collecting a wealth of data, we have also inadvertently cleared the bay of such marine debris as derelict crab traps, broken sailboat masts, old tires and even trolling motors. This summer, though, our good deeds on the high seas progressed from opportunistic trash removal to opportunistic rescue, rehab and release efforts!
Although no sea turtles have ever entangled in our fishing net, on rare occasion we will have one swimming freely within the compass. When this happens, all effort is immediately focused on safely removing and releasing the turtle back into the wild. This summer, however, we happened upon two green sea turtles suffering from severe monofilament entanglements that would have ultimately proved fatal without our intervention.
Noodle was found in August, sporting severe swelling to his right front flipper. Further inspection revealed the cause: monofilament wound tightly around the limb, gouging deeply into his flesh. We made arrangements with Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program (SIP) to transport the turtle to Mote’s sea turtle rehabilitation hospital for treatment. X-rays revealed that the entanglement had actually fractured Noodle’s femur, necessitating amputation. Thanks to the excellent care provided by hospital staff, Noodle’s prognosis looks good! With three and a half healthy flippers to his name, SIP and hospital staff are optimistic that Noodle will return to the wild in the near future.
We discovered Pancake in September, suffering from an entanglement that he had also ingested. Monofilament line wrapped around the turtle’s front left flipper and neck. This same line extended into his mouth and out his cloaca, trapping feces that trailed behind Pancake. We again reached out to Mote’s SIP for assistance. The entanglement was removed and, after 6 weeks of rehab in the capable hands at Mote’s sea turtle rehabilitation hospital, Pancake finally shed the last bit of monofilament that remained in his gut. In preparation for release, animal care staff outfitted him with a PIT tag. On November 10th, due to the extended red tide conditions present in Sarasota Bay, Pancake was driven north to Dunedin, Florida for his return to the wild.
This article appeared on page 27 of the 2017 SDRP Annual Report, Nicks n Notches.