2005-08-04 / News

Tangled turtles should be reported to DEM hot line

The state Department of Environmental Management has set up a 24-hour hot line for any-one who finds an endangered sea turtle that has become entangled in fishing gear.

The number, (401) 633-4116, is manned by R.I. Sea Turtle Disentanglement Program Co-ordinators David Beutel and Malia Schwartz.

“Since all sea turtles are listed as either threatened or endan-gered under the Endangered Species Act, our being able to respond to and disentangle any sea turtle becomes critically important,” said Schwartz.

The program has trained a group of experienced people and enlisted a cadre of boats to respond to turtle entanglement calls. Launched this summer, the disentanglement program is run by the Rhode Island Sea Grant Sustainable Fisheries Extension Program in partnership with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency charged with protecting and recovering sea turtles.

The leatherback and logger-head sea turtles are most common in Rhode Island waters in the summer as they follow their food sources north along the western Atlantic. Schwartz said.

“They’re attracted to the crit-ters growing on or swimming around buoy lines,” said Schwartz, who has been studying turtles and entanglement issues for 16 years.

“Then, they’ll get a line wrapped around their flipper and they panic, further entangling themselves,” he said.

Beutel and Schwartz hope that people will call the hot line to report entangled turtles. Anyone who does call the hot line, should be prepared to give the location of the turtle, its condition, and most important, a contact phone num-ber. If at all possible, the caller should remain with the turtle until the response boat arrives.

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