The Turtle Hospital. Rescue, Rehab, Release.

Ghost Gear- The Scary Truth about Entanglements

close up of turtle

Ghost gear is fishing and boating gear that is left behind in our oceans. Intentionally or unintentionally it becomes a hazard to marine life. Things such as fishing lines, hooks, nets, ropes, buoys, anchor lines, kill hundreds of thousands of marine animals each year. It ends up floating on those grassy sea beds or the bottom of the ocean where it poses a threat to all 7 species of sea turtles. When they become entangled, they get exhausted, dehydrated, decreased ability to swim, reduced feeding, life-threatening injuries and inability to surface to breathe. It also can become very tight on a flipper cutting off the circulation. It may even be so heavy and tight that it will cut through the skin and muscle down to the bone. When an entangled sea turtle is rescued at The Turtle Hospital, we try to save those flippers. Sadly, sometimes they are damaged beyond repair and have to be amputated.

rescue picture with coast guard
Bubbles was rescued with the help of the Coast Guard

Bubbles, a green adult female sea turtle came to The Turtle Hospital on 6/18/2020. She had an entanglement of ghost gear. It was a trap line with a buoy around her back-left flipper. She was trying to swim when the boaters found her. All 225 pounds of her trying to dive down only to be pulled back up by the buoy on the entangled trap line. The damage to her back-left flipper was so severe it had to be amputated. She is currently healing and receiving wound care. Hopefully she’ll be able to return to her ocean home within two months.

turtle amputation surgery
Bubbles’ amputation surgery with Dr. Terry Norton
turtle being held
Shelly upon intake

Shelly, a green adult 266-pound male sea turtle came to The Turtle Hospital on 7/9/2020. He had an entanglement of ghost gear. It was an abandoned anchor line entangled around the front-left flipper – cutting off the circulation. He was not moving the flipper after the entanglement was removed. We are trying to save that flipper. He is currently receiving wound care, honey/DMSO massage and class 4 laser therapy. He seems to be responding. Unfortunately the damage to the flipper was deemed too severe and we had to amputate his flipper.

turtle amputation surgery
Shelly amputation surgery with Dr. Brooke Burkhalter

Things you can do to help:

·       Don’t leave fishing gear unattended.

·       Don’t dispose of fishing gear in the water.

·       Do pick up fishing gear, ropes, and boating gear you find in the water or beaches.

·       Do discard unwanted fishing line in a monofilament recycling bin.

If you find an injured or distressed turtle, report it immediately!

Call your local stranding hotline.

In the Florida Keys you can call the Turtle Hospital at 305-481-7669 or the Florida Fish and Wildlife at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or *FWC or #FWC on a cell phone.

Or contact the Coast Guard on marine radio channel 16.

Remember – always keep a look out, not only for the Sea Turtles, but dolphins, manatees and other wildlife we share the oceans with. 

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