Sea turtles hooked on using fishing piers as an all-you-can-eat buffet

Posted at 7:16 PM, Aug 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-21 06:31:17-04

First dolphins were washing up in the area and now local stranding teams are rescuing more sea turtles.

But officials say it's because the turtles keep swimming to our fishing piers looking for food.

A turtle named Findley was hooked a couple weeks ago at Little Island Fishing Pier and Grenada came from the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier.

Linda Derry shows NewsChannel 3 two of the 7 sea turtles rescued by Virginia Aquarium volunteers in just the last four weeks.

All were caught on hooks at local piers, called in by concerned fishermen.

“It’s unusual for us, we only see maybe one or two a year,” said Derry. “A lot of these guys are coming in thin, dehydrated and anemic.”

Derry says that could be a possible cause for the turtles chomping on fisherman's lines.

“I think it’s an easy source of food,” said Derry. “A lot of these guys, we get them in with hooks, and when we take x-rays, we find they have another hook we didn't know about. So we know they have been going back to the pier, we call them repeat offenders.”

This growing number of hooked sea turtles comes right at the same time the Virginia Aquarium is struggling to keep up with massive amounts of dolphin deaths.

“We actually had to transfer out four turtles because we are running out of space,” said Derry.

Those turtles are now being cared for in Baltimore and North Carolina--lightening the load just a bit for these volunteers, so they can try to figure out why sea turtles are choosing local fishing piers for dinner, instead of the open ocean.

“Before we release them, we do put satellite tags on them so we can track them and find out where they are migrating, where they are foraging. Hopefully that will answer some questions for us,” said Derry.


Web exclusive video: Rise in sea turtle rescues at local piers