The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation saved a leatherback sea turtle that was entangled in a lobster trap line a mile offshore on Sunday afternoon around 5.
After receiving the report from the Montauk Coast Guard Station, the Riverhead Foundation gathered its biologists and disentanglement gear, as the Coast Guard confirmed that it still had a visual on the turtle. Keeping tabs on the turtle's location could have been problematic, explained Robert A. DiGiovanni Jr., the foundation's executive director and senior biologist. "A turtle is a different kind of animal to have entangled. A seal goes in and out of the water, while a turtle usually is not in and out."
Able to re-identify the whereabouts of the leatherback sea turtle, the Montauk Coast Guard transported the response team to its location. "The boat crew assessed the level of entanglement and then freed the animal by unwrapping and cutting the lobster trap," said Dr. DiGiovanni. Based on the turtle's height of about five feet and approximate weight of 800 pounds, Dr. DiGiovanni estimated that the animal was most likely not a young one. The gender of the turtle was undetermined. The team was on site for about a half hour to ensure that the animal didn't resurface with further problems after it was freed.
The Coast Guard crew members who helped in the rescue operation named the turtle Oriskany after a United States aircraft carrier that was sunk in 2006 and is an artificial reef now.
Dr. DiGiovanni stressed that as leatherback sea turtles are more common in local waters at this time of year, it is "important for the public to report what they see." There foundation's 24-hour hotline can be reached at 631-369-9829.
Last year, there were two leatherback sea turtles in Gardiner's Bay in the same week, one on the south side and the other on the north side. Additionally, the Riverhead Foundation has recently received calls about dolphins in Shinnecock, and one distressed dolphin in Southampton that did not make it. The foundation will continue to do public releases of rehabilitated seals; the next one will be on July 5 during a U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Open House in Hampton Bays.