Sea turtle, tangled in fishing line, drowns

By John Bachman - bio | email
Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

LAKE PARK, FL (WFLX) - A disturbing find under water right off our coast: Someone dumped a fishing line into the ocean. That mistake caused an endangered animal to suffer and die.

Wildlife experts hope this serves as a lesson to show everyone what happens when trash and wildlife get tangled up. The results can be deadly. "One of the nice things about West Palm is that it's the home for lots of turtle. And this time of year, it's very common to see five or six or eight turtles on ever single dive when you are out there," said Doug Ebersole of St. Petersburg.

Ebersole was in town with this family for a day of diving. He comes about once a month to enjoy the shallow water reefs right of Palm Beach. But even with his 35 years of scuba experience, he never expected to see what he saw Saturday. "Probably about 30 minutes into the dive, we were coming up on one of the little fingers of the reef. There was an object hanging on the edge of visibility, and we were not sure what it was. We got closer to it, and it looked to be a turtle. And I thought initially maybe it's just coming down from the surface, but then it wasn't moving."

Ebersole says the sea turtle, a Hawksbill, was wrapped in about 60 to 75 feet of fishing line. The line was knotted around the young turtle's neck and flippers.

"We know this is one of the turtles we've been studying because it's been found with tags on it," said turtle researcher Larry Wood. He's been studying Hawksbill sea turtles for years. He says specifically the juvenile Hawksbills use our warm waters to grow up before setting out to sea all over the world. This one never got a chance. He says it drowned unable to get back to the surface to get a breath.

"These are critically endangered species, and we are doing everything we can to protect them and preserve them here. It can be discouraging especially when this type of thing happens." Wood says this should serve as reminder to all of us of what can happen with wild animals get stuck with our waste.

It's something Doug Ebersole will never forget. "It's very, very sad to see something like this happen, and here's a poor turtle wrapped in the line."

Researchers are still waiting to trace the tag number found on that turtle; then, they will know it's age and exactly how long it had been living here in our area.