BOURNE – A leatherback turtle reported entangled in fishing gear Tuesday afternoon near the east entrance to the Cape Cod Canal was freed and appeared to be in good condition, according to the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.
But the increasing count of sea turtle entanglements reported off the coast of Massachusetts last year and this year represent a worrisome trend, according to the center’s entanglement team director, Scott Landry.
In 2012, the count was 37, and this year’s count of 10 so far, including Tuesday’s incident, appears headed in that direction as well, Landry said Wednesday.
The increase could be related to warmer water temperature, he said. “Last year we were completely taken by storm.”
Most entangled animals, whether sea turtles or other marine mammals, are not freed mainly because mariners don’t report the sightings immediately and don’t stay with the animal.
On Tuesday, people walking along the jetty at the canal noticed the turtle thrashing just offshore and reported it immediately and then kept the animal in sight until the center’s team arrived.
The leatherbacks visit state waters each summer to feed, and they migrate south in the fall toward the Caribbean to breed and nest. They are the largest turtle in the world. Adult leatherbacks are typically about 6½ feet long and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds.
They are considered endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Reports of entangled marine mammals should be made to the center’s hotline at 800-900-3622 or to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The center deploys its marine animal entanglement team in cooperation with state and federal authorities and under federal permits issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
From Cape Cod Online