SINGER ISLAND, Fla. — It’s a heartbreaking sight no one ever wants to see at the beach.
A pile of fishing line ended up in the ocean and eventually strangled a green sea turtle to death.
The turtle was found on Singer Island beach Tuesday afternoon by beachgoers, right as we enter the peak of sea turtle nesting season.
“It was shocking, it was horrible,” said John Mirabile, one of several people who tried to help the turtle. “You hear about these things happening but to actually see it first hand, was horrible.”
Mirabile runs the Island Beach Service business at the Hilton Singer Island with his wife, Lauren. The couple got a call that afternoon from Barry Smith, a sea turtle monitor who discovered the turtle further south of them and called for help.
“We got clippers, scissors, and pliers. And there was the turtle, washed up with fishing line wrapped around its neck,” said Mirabile. “It was a big, giant — just rats nest of fishing line.”
Mirabile said the team of people tried everything to help the turtle, which he estimates were between 200 to 300 pounds.
“They were picking up water from the ocean, dumping it on top of the turtles back, trying to do everything to keep the turtle safe,” he said. “We even grabbed an umbrella and put it right over it.”
But it was too late. Loggerhead Marinelife Center arrived and pronounced the turtle dead. It was possible the turtle was dead when it was found.
What makes this even more troubling is the fact that this was an adult male green turtle, which means it could’ve contributed to this year’s nesting season.
“It’s really disheartening to see that,” said Justin Perrault, director of research at Loggerhead Marinelife Center. “Because those are the really important ones that we have out in the population that are making sure to keep the next generation going.”
Perrault said this incident is a reminder that people need to be more responsible on the water.
“If you have to cut a line, just cut it as short as possible,” he said. “Just making sure that it’s put in a proper trash receptacle so you know it’s not going to get blown away.”
And it’s not just with fishing line, but boats and litter as well. Sea turtles are coming into the hospital with boat strike injuries and plastic ingestion.
“There are literally thousands of animals right offshore, so it’s really important that if you’re a boater, you’re slowing down,” added Perrault. “It’s not just sea turtles, but all animals. We all live on the same planet and share this ecosystem.”
In addition to providing services for guests at the beach for his business, Mirabile also keeps an eye on the countless sea turtles nests there.
“This is the closest point in Florida to the Gulf Stream, right where we’re standing,” he said. “You can think about it like an exit on the highway, this is the first stop for turtles.”
Mirabile just hopes he never has to see a turtle in distress again.
“We can’t say where that fishing line came from but these turtles are just trying to live their life,” he said.
Loggerhead Marinelife Center is holding a fundraiser this weekend to help save more injured turtles. To learn more about the Run for the Sea event, click here.