Elsa, a large female loggerhead sea turtle, took one final glance before making the journey back into her ocean home. Over 500 smiling faces looked back at her, encouraging her with phrases like “You’ve got it, Elsa! Enjoy eating lots of lobster!”
This is the type of interaction between sea turtles and humans that inspires Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) to continue creating life-saving treatments and protocols to keep sea turtles and other marine life healthy and safe. Elsa’s journey back to the ocean hasn’t necessarily been an easy one. Last October, an angler at the Juno Beach Pier accidentally hooked Elsa while fishing.
Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence on fishing piers around the country. Every year, more than 250,000 sea turtles are accidentally captured, injured or killed by United States anglers. Many of these injuries and deaths take place while turtles are migrating through highly fished areas. These occurrences prompted Loggerhead Marinelife Center to take action and create the Responsible Pier Initiative.
“We identified local fishing piers as an area in dire need of ocean conservation and sea turtle awareness education,” said Tommy Cutt, LMC Chief Conservation Officer. Cutt explained that many times anglers will accidentally hook a sea turtle and cut off the fishing line. “Although there is no prosecution for hooking a sea turtle, we want to educate the fishing community and public about the importance of contacting the proper authorities when this happens,” he added.
The Responsible Pier Initiative is comprised of the following:
- Educational signage and rescue nets displayed on the pier
- Educational workshops conducted for fishing piers’ first-responders and management
- Underwater cleaning of participating piers and surrounding areas on a regular basis
- Pollution prevention measures in place at participating piers
It is because of the Responsible Pier Initiative that Elsa was given a second chance at life. As soon as the angler realized a sea turtle had been accidentally hooked, the appropriate authorities were contacted. Juno Beach Pier staff used the rescue nets to hold Elsa while a local surfer guided her back to shore. Elsa was then transported to Loggerhead Marinelife Center for medical evaluation.
The turtle was underweight and covered in large barnacles. X-rays showed two fishing hooks, one in the mouth and the other in the esophagus. Both hooks were successfully removed and after nearly five months of rehabilitation and care at LMC, Elsa was released back into the wild to join her other marine life friends. You can now track Elsa at www.marinelife.org/track.
This story emphasizes the need for ocean conservation and sea turtle awareness education, specifically around fishing piers. In 2014, the Responsible Pier Initiative expanded across the state of Florida to 22 fishing piers in 9 different counties. This past year, 19 sea turtles were rescued from participating piers and 2,211 lbs. of debris were removed from areas surrounding and below piers. If you’re interested in bringing the Responsible Pier Initiative to your local pier or area, please contact Tommy Cutt, LMC Chief Conservation Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-627-8280 ext. 116.