Turtle Strangled in Net: Community Comes to the Rescue

What we found yesterday was either an unlikely coincidence or something that happens more often than we know. Justin, Cade, Jill, and I met up at the Marine Environmental Education Center in Hollywood, FL for a festival to celebrate the ocean on Saturday, April 20th, 2019.  Afterwards, we decided to go snorkeling right off the beach behind the center. What we found was the last thing we expected to see that day.

Jessica, Jill, Cade, and Justin before their snorkel (left to right)

Jessica, Jill, Cade, and Justin before their snorkel (left to right)

We put on our snorkel gear and headed out to find exciting marine life, but what began as a fun ocean day with good friends turned into something tragic. Cade described the terrifying sight as “something you see right from a movie.”

I’ve seen dead fish and old fishing line caught in seaweed before, but when I swam down to pull it free, it seemed to grow longer. We followed the seemingly endless line as it ran parallel to the shore. Ours hearts sank deeper and deeper the further we swam as we saw the toll the net had taken on our own backyard. Although we managed to rescue some, we were too late for others.

Jessica cutting a stone crab free from the line.

Jessica cutting a stone crab free from the line.

Southern Stingray caught in net.

Southern Stingray caught in net.

The ocean is close to my heart and seeing a dead nurse shark, fish, crabs, and stingrays was really hard, but what really hit me was finding the endangered green sea turtle. It was clear that the turtle became entangled underwater and fought hard to swim to the surface for a breath. Sadly it was inches below the surface and will never take one again.

Juvenile green sea turtle strangled in gill net.

Juvenile green sea turtle strangled in gill net.

We knew we had to take action. We found the other end of the line and all played our part. Jill went to notify authorities and get scissors to cut more line, while Justin started freeing what was still alive from the tangled mess. As Cade and I worked on removing the gill net, we met a lifeguard named Alan. He was on his break and came out by paddle board to investigate a reported fishing line. Alan had brought a knife and began breaking down the workload by removing segments of the gill net and pulling it to shore.

Our small rescue team quickly grew as a family nearby began picking through the line to free whatever had survived. From ages of 4 to 70, everyone had a helping hand. While the adults cut the marine life free, the kids used their buckets to pour water over the animals and transport those freed back to the ocean, saving dozens of creatures’ lives.

Local family freeing marine life from the net and bringing them back to the ocean.

Local family freeing marine life from the net and bringing them back to the ocean.

Nearby paddle boarders, Patti, Ana, and Jacques saw the commotion and stopped to help, ensuring our safety as we removed the last of the line and helped paddle it to shore. With everyone’s help we were safely able to remove all the tangled line and rescue the survivors.

The Marine Animal Rescue Society (MARS) responded to coordinate the removal of the gill net from the beach and a follow up netting clean up to ensure nothing was left behind. Carried out by Nova Southeastern University, the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program was also contacted and arrived quickly to respond under proper permits and remove the sea turtle caught in the line. 

With sea turtle nesting season upon us we’re all thankful and fortunate the line was removed from the water and mother sea turtles will safely make it to the beach to lay their eggs.

We want to give a big thank you to all individuals involved who came together to #bethesealution

Jessica Jean

The community that helped get the net out and save the surviving animals.

The community that helped get the net out and save the surviving animals.

Contact MARS (305-546-1111) to report any dead, sick, or injured sea life not under endangered status in South Florida.

For endangered species please contact FWC’s 24-hour Wildlife Alert Number at 1-888-404-3922 for all other reports in the state of Florida.

Jessica Moses3 Comments