GULFPORT (WLOX) -- Researchers at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport averted a fishing calamity. And in the process, they produced a fishing tale that should make everybody feel good. Their quick action saved the life of an endangered sea turtle.
The researchers arrived at the Gulfport Yacht Club in a pickup truck. A small tank sat in the bed of the truck. And in the tank was a recovering turtle. Tim Hoffman led this expedition for the IMMS. "We're about to release a Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle that was caught about four days ago in the Gulfport harbor," he explained.
The research team wrapped the turtle in a wet towel, and carried it to a boat. While Hoffman steered the rescue vessel toward the Gulfport ship channel, research assistants made the injured turtle as comfortable as possible, first with antibiotics, and then with water. Shea Eaves was one of the turtle's nurses. "I'm just keeping her nice and cool with the water, and keeping her skin wet," she said.
Her partner was Shannon Huyser. "It's very exciting because this is what we're all about is rehabiliating marine mammals," Huyser said. "So it's very nice to be able to put her back where she came from."
The turtle ended up at the Gulfport research lab on Thursday, after a fishing hook got caught in her cheek, and a fisherman yanked her out of the Mississippi Sound. Because the Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle is endangered, saving her became a priority. "There's only about 250 breeding females left in the Gulf of Mexico. And this is a female," said Hoffman. "So we're going to get a chance to send her back home."
As the rescue boat approached its target release point, the turtle seemed to sense something big was about to happen. Its fins started flapping, slowly at first, and then at a rapid pace. Researchers attached a microchip to one of those flapping fins, just in case the turtle ever ended up in their lab again.
Once Huyser was in position, she released her patient back into the wild. "All right. Here she goes," the research assistant said. As the turtle swam away, everybody on the boat began to cheer. "It's a good feeling to be able to help them when they're in need. It makes you feel good," said Huyser.
Researchers said they were able to save the Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle, because the fisherman, and a marine patrol unit quickly reported the turtle had been caught and injured.
By Brad Kessie
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