Boaters Reminded to Be Vigilant for Sea Turtles
BOSTON – July 15, 2013 – With the summer season underway, officials from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) are urging boaters to watch out for the endangered leatherback sea turtle.
Leatherback sea turtles are seasonal visitors to the Massachusetts coast where they feed on gelatinous zooplankton. However leatherbacks often become entangled in buoy lines associated with fixed fishing gear while foraging in northern waters, especially in areas with a high density of gear and/or turtles. They are also very susceptible to vessel collision.
State marine officials are asking boaters, when encountering a leatherback, to reduce speed and immediately report sightings of entangled turtles to the Marine Animal Entanglement Response Hotline (1-800-900-3622) or to the U.S. Coast Guard, and then remain by the animal at a safe distance until trained responders arrive.
The Massachusetts Sea Turtle Disentanglement Network has already documented 10 leatherback entanglements this year, a rate that has increased above previous years.
Unfortunately, many of these cases were not properly addressed due to a lack of prompt reporting or ad-hoc disentanglement attempts by untrained boaters. The Marine Animal Entanglement Response team operates a 24-hotline and rapid response network to react to these entanglements.
DMF and the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies have partnered on the Massachusetts Leatherback Sea Turtle Disentanglement Network since 2005 on the using grant funds from the National Marine Fisheries Service.
For more information, visit the DMF website at www.mass.gov/marinefisheries.