When Aaron Pederson accidentally hooked a sea turtle at the Juno Beach Pier last month, he and his dad, Patrick, rushed to seek medical attention for the 76-pound loggerhead.
Following instructions posted on the pier as part of Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s Responsible Pier Initiative, the Pedersons immediately placed a call to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission before hoisting the turtle to safety.
FWC officer Atwell Pride and Charles Manire, director of research and rehabilitation at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, arrived at the pier a short time later to check on the turtle, a sub-adult approximately 15-25 years old.
“The protocol is to evaluate very quickly the condition of the turtle,” Manire said. “The turtle seemed to be OK at that point. It wasn’t in distress. The FWC officer offered to transport the turtle to the center, so we brought it there to closely evaluate it and do whatever was necessary to make it healthy.”
Two fishing hooks were removed from the turtle’s esophagus and stomach the next day, Manire said.
The turtle, named “Pederson,” also was treated for a variety of medical ailments, including malnutrition.
“The turtle has some other health issues, which is probably why it was at the pier looking for a free handout and why it’s pretty thin and covered in barnacles,” Manire said. “It’s a fairly common condition we see.”
The wounds from the hooks are expected to heal quickly, Manire said, but treatment for Pederson’s other health issues will take longer.
The turtle is expected to spend four or five months rehabilitating at LMC before it is healthy enough to be released into the ocean.
Pederson’s rescue highlights the need for sea turtle awareness education, particularly around fishing piers, Manire said.
LMC’s Responsible Pier Initiative, started last year in the hopes of teaching local fishermen what to do if they accidentally hook a sea turtle, consists of three components: Cleaning beneath the pier and surrounding areas, hosting annual sea turtle rescue educational workshops for first responders, and displaying sea turtle rescue signs and nets on the pier.
In the Pedersons’ case, the initiative worked perfectly.
“They used the nets we provided them at the pier to lift the turtle out of the water, up onto the pier,” Manire said. “They did exactly what we asked them to do, and the turtle’s doing well because of it.”
For information, visit www.marinelife.org.