Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau assisted in the rescue of an endangered sea turtle in the Long Island Sound last night. All boaters are encouraged to immediately report any sightings of stranded or entangled marine life so that a similar, positive outcome can be achieved.
Marine Bureau Police Officers David Goldstein and Matthew Funaro, while on routine patrol in the Long Island Sound, received information from a pleasure boat via the VHF radio, that a very large sea turtle was entangled in the lines of several lobster pots one mile north of Mount Sinai Harbor, at 8:40 p.m. The officers located the turtle approximately ten minutes later, and it appeared to be in distress and having difficulty breathing. The officers maneuvered their boat, M-Delta, into position and attempted to free the turtle from the lines. They managed to free one of its flippers, but due to the turtle’s size and agitated state, they were unable to remove the remaining lines.
The officers requested assistance from Marine Bureau Police Officers Michael Cappiello and Matthew Wargas, of M-Bravo, who transported personnel from the Riverhead Foundation’s Rescue Program from the shore to the scene. Using lights, cutting tools and poles, Julika Wocial, Riverhead Foundation’s Rescue Program Supervisor and Kimberly Durham, Rescue Program Director, worked with the Marine Bureau officers for over three hours and eventually freed the turtle. Wocial and Durham stated that the turtle was a Leatherback sea turtle, at least 6 feet long, and weighed an estimated 1000 pounds. They also reported this particular species is on the endangered list and that the sea turtle was a female of breeding age, making the rescue extremely important. It was reported that once freed, the turtle appeared to calm down, and it swam away on its own without further incident.