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An Unexpected Catch

Summertime in Florida means fishing season! While you’re on the water this summer getting a fresh catch for dinner, it’s important to know what to do if you end up with a sea turtle on your line. The Florida Aquarium is currently rehabbing two juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles at our facility after they were accidentially hooked by fishermen.

Rescued by Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Hernando County on May 20, the first turtle came to our facility to have the fishing hook removed from its esophagus. The hook, found in the beginning of its esophagus, was relatively easy to remove. The Aquarium’s animal health team is currently monitoring this turtle and expects a prompt release back into the ocean.

The second turtle was rescued from a Ballast Point fishing dock after the fisherman who caught it called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to come to its aid. The Aquarium’s animal health team received the call from the FWC to come and retrieve the turtle. The circle hook, lodged deep in the turtle’s esophagus was successfully removed during a surgical procedure. This turtle is expected to have a longer recovery period, which also allows time for needed weight gain.

“These turtle’s coming in so soon one after the other is truly unfortunate. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are likely to be found in Florida waters around this time of year, but getting two in a row was a little unusual,” said Kathy Heim, director of animal health.

Since we are entering the summer months in Florida, it is very important for fishermen to be mindful of bycatch. These two turtles are receiving excellent care and are expected to make a recovery, but not all turtles are as lucky. If you hook an animal like a sea turtle or a bird, promptly call the FWC for help.

Heym says, “The biggest mistake a fisherman can make is to cut his or her fishing line with a turtle or bird on the line. The animal can be further entangled in the monofilament, and the line will end up as pollution in the ocean. You will not get in trouble for calling the FWC; they are a resource to help animals.”

If you ever hook an animal while fishing and need help, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at (863)-648-3200.

Fifth Third Bank, a community partner of the Aquarium, is helping us raise funds to support our mission and care for injured animals, and for a limited time – now through June 30 – you can double your impact thanks to a generous 1:1 financial match up to $20,000.

We are this close to our goal, and you can help us get there! Donate to the Aquarium’s animal rescue and rehab program here: www.flaquarium.org/fifththirdbankmatch