By Miguel Montalvo

Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital staff released a subadult Kemp’s ridley turtle on Friday, July 13, from Anna Maria Island after it recovered from entanglement in fishing gear.

The rehabilitation and release of this turtle, nicknamed “Gazpacho,” is of special importance because Kemp’s ridleys are federally designated as endangered.

Gazpacho was rescued at Hog Island in Charlotte Harbor, where it was found entangled in a large clump of monofilament fishing line with a rod attached; two fishing hooks were found in its mouth. Once the line and hooks were removed, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) arranged for the turtle to come to Mote’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital for treatment starting May 30. Upon arrival, Gazpacho was treated with antibiotics and started eating right away.

By the time the turtle was medically cleared for release, its weight had increased from 29.7 pounds (13.5 kilograms) on arrival to 31.9 pounds (14.1 kilograms), and the straight length of its carapace (upper shell) was 18.1 inches (46.1 centimeters). It is not known if the turtle was male or female because scientists usually cannot visually determine the sex of a subadult sea turtle.

“This turtle was a great patient, its recovery was impeccable and its release from Anna Maria Island went well,” said Lynne Byrd, Medical Care and Rehabilitation Coordinator at Mote. “As soon as it saw the ocean, it shot into the water like a bullet.”

Anglers who accidentally hook a sea turtle should call trained wildlife responders immediately and don’t cut the line. Leaving the line attached can help trained responders remove the hook more easily.

Avoid leaving fishing line in the environment. Stow trash and line when your vessel is under way and place used monofilament line into special monofilament recycling bins found at many boat ramps, piers, marinas and tackle shops. When disposing hooks and lures, clip off sharp points to avoid injuring humans and wildlife.

Please report distressed or dead sea turtles.

  • Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program responds to reports of sick, injured or dead marine mammals and sea turtles in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Within Sarasota or Manatee county waters, if you see a stranded or dead sea turtle, dolphin or whale, please call Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program, a 24-hour response service, at 888-345-2335.
  • If you see a stranded or dead manatee anywhere in state waters or a stranded or dead sea turtle, dolphin or whale outside of Sarasota and Manatee counties, please call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at 1 (888) 404-FWCC (3922).