NAVARRE BEACH — Linda Johnson typically spends most mornings walking along the beach.
While visiting Gulf Island National Seashore on Monday, she noticed something odd near the shoreline. Upon closer inspection she discovered it was a Kemp’s ridley turtle lying in the sand with fishing line wrapped around its front left flipper.
“It was probably not dead for too long. I saw the fins still flopping when the water touched,” she said.
Johnson has lived in Navarre about four years. She said she normally sees discarded items left on the beach, which is why she brings a backpack on her walks to collect trash.
“I know that accidents happen,” she said. “There’s a lot of fisherman out there. I’ve seen lines and hooks. I’m often leaving the beach with more than I came with.”
After some advice from folks on the Concerned Citizens of Navarre Facebook group, Johnson called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wildlife hotline to report the turtle. The hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When it comes to similar incidents, FWC Sea Turtle Stranding Coordinator Karrie Minch said that’s the first thing anyone should do.
“Please do not cut the line. Do not lift the turtle above the water by pulling the line as this will result in further injury,” Minch added. “Once the turtle has been safely recovered from the water, it will be taken to one of our permitted sea turtle rehabilitation facilities where they will remove the hook and it can recover from its injury.”
Sadly, abandoned fishing gear is a regular threat to marine life, Minch said.
“Abandoned fishing gear can entangle marine animals such as sea turtles causing constrictions wound around appendages, severe impaction if swallowed, or even death,” she said. “Whether on the beach or out fishing in the ocean, please do not discard trash and fishing line. By taking part in annual beach/pier clean-ups, you become a great example to others on how to reduce marine debris and help wildlife remain safe from pollution.”
Since moving to Navarre, Johnson said she and her daughter have tried to become better advocates for the beach and marine life. After sharing her story, she hopes more people will pay attention, too.
“You feel so helpless,” she said. “I hate to have things happen like this.”
If you come across a dead, sick or injured sea turtle call FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC.
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