The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation freed an 800-pound leatherback sea turtle on Sunday that had gotten entangled in a lobster trap line in the ocean about a mile offshore.
Foundation biologists and gear were alerted at about 5 p.m. to the turtle’s predicament by the Montauk Coast Guard Station, which provided a boat and crew to get them to the site. Keeping tabs on the turtle’s location could have been problematic, Robert A. DiGiovanni Jr., the foundation’s executive director and senior biologist, said. “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.”
Foundation personnel “assessed the level of entanglement and then freed the animal by unwrapping and cutting the lobster trap,” Dr. DiGiovanni said. Based on its weight and length, which was about five feet, Dr. DiGiovanni said it was not likely to be young. Its gender could not be determined. The team stayed nearby for about a half-hour to be sure the turtle didn’t resurface with further problems.
The Coast Guard crew who helped in the rescue named the turtle Oriskany after a United States aircraft carrier that was sunk in 2006 and is now an artifical reef.
Dr. DiGiovanni said that leatherbacks, which are the largest sea turtles, are somewhat common in local waters at this time of year. Last year, two leatherbacks were identified in Gardiner’s Bay in the same week. He asked the public’s cooperation in reporting any they see. The foundation’s 24-hour hotline is 369-9829.
The foundation, which works with other marine animals as well, recently received calls about dolphins at Shinnecock. Another dolphin, elsewhere in Southampton, was distressed and did not make it. The foundation regularly releases rehabilitated seals; the next such event will take place on July 5 during a Coast Guard and Guard Auxiliary open house in Hampton Bays.