Sea Turtle Recovers After Swallowing 4 Feet of Fishing Line

An endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was extremely fortunate to be at the right place at the right time early in June. She was pulled from a shipping channel near Charleston, S.C., by a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) crew that was there doing a random sampling of marine life.

Monofilament fishing line was wrapped around the turtle’s head and mouth, and embedded in one of her flippers.

But that wasn’t even the worst of it. After the turtle was transported to the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Care Center (STCC), an endoscopy showed she had swallowed four feet of fishing line, the end of which was stuck in her intestine.

The turtle, who the STCC staff named “Peach,” was dying. “If she hadn’t been found, especially by a SCDNR vessel, she may not have survived another week,” South Carolina Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Shane Boylan said in a press release.

“She’s the luckiest unlucky turtle we’ve ever treated.”

The state-of-the-art STCC opened at the South Carolina Aquarium just one month before Peach was rescued. During a risky surgical procedure that was viewed by hundreds of visitors to the STCC along with many more online, Boylan and the STCC staff removed 120 centimeters – nearly four feet — of fishing line from Peach’s intestines.

To access the fishing line, Boylan had to make an incision in Peach’s groin area, then reach in and grasp part of her intestine. Peach got lucky yet again: “The one section of the intestine that was closest to the surgical incision had monofilament in it,” Boylan told the Post and Courier.

Boylan cut through a knot and successfully pulled out foot after foot of monofilament. After spending a few months recovering, Peach was tagged with a satellite transmitter and released on a beach Oct. 9 in a homecoming that was streamed live on Facebook.

Peach has made history: She’s the first Kemp’s ridley turtle in South Carolina to be rescued, tagged and returned to the ocean. She’s also the first STCC patient to participate in an SCDNR research project studying the winter migration of these turtles in the state’s coastal waters.

The turtle went from being “on the brink of death to our first opportunity to find out where Kemp’s ridley sea turtles captured in our trawl surveys spend the winter,” Mike Arendt, a DNR assistant marine scientist who helped rescue Peach, said in the press release.

Just a couple days before Peach was released on Folly Beach, a sea turtle in Hawaii suffered her same predicament. But he did not, sadly, share her good luck. The turtle was found dead in Kailua, with fishing line wrapped around his neck and front flippers.

T. Todd Jones, lead scientist for the Marine Turtle Biology and Assessment Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is investigating the turtle’s death, said fishing line is deadlier for turtles than fishing hooks.

“It can actually get so tight the flipper can no longer get blood supply and eventually will cause an amputation, or the line can be swallowed by the animal and once it’s swallowed it causes gut impaction,” Jones said. “The animal can no longer forage and move food through [its digestive system].”

Peach’s ordeal “highlights the need to remember that we share those valued waterways with a myriad of other species, even if they’re not always in plain sight,” Arendt told the Post and Courier.

You can track Peach’s journey on the seaturtle.org website. Godspeed, Peach.

Photo credit: South Carolina Aquarium

118 comments

Chad Anderson
Chad A14 hours ago

Great!

SEND
Teresa A
Teresa A4 days ago

Tyfs

SEND
federico bortoletto
federico b5 days ago

Grazie per la condivisione.

SEND
Amanda M
Amanda M5 days ago

Thanks for sharing

SEND
Amanda M
Amanda M5 days ago

Thanks for sharing

SEND
Jane Howard
Jane Howard5 days ago

Pure laziness on the fisherman's part and yet again the innocent suffer....

SEND
Jennifer H
Jennifer H6 days ago

Fishermen are a greedy lot. They have no qualms about "bicatch" as proven with their drag lines, nets, and waste. Not to mention those who refuse to share the fish of the ocean with wildlife who need it to survive. How many seals and sea lions have they shot? Check with TMMC for a few of their survivors.

SEND
Julia R
Julia R6 days ago

Shame on these people who treat our oceans and its marine life like a garbage dump! Would if it was them who had to suffer for their thoughtless and careless ways!

SEND
Janis K
Janis K7 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie7 days ago

Thank you so very much.

SEND