VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Virginia Aquarium said 2022 has been a record-breaking year for the most hooked sea turtle responses in the history of the Stranding Response Program at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center.
Hooked turtle season, which refers to a time when sea turtles are caught by fishing hooks during recreational fishing season, began in late April in Hampton Roads. The Virginia Aquarium said that between April 30, which was when the first hooked turtle was reported, and June 27, the Aquarium has reported 58 hooked turtles.
The aquarium said that 51 of the 58 turtles have been recovered for rehabilitation, and 26 of those turtles have been successfully released. According to the aquarium, most of the patients have been Kemp's ridley sea turtles, a critically endangered species.
The previous record was 45 hooked sea turtle responses in 2018.
Hooked sea turtle season occurs throughout the recreational fishing season, which takes place predominantly in May and June but can be seen through September. The aquarium has seen high call volumes from the Buckroe and Virginia Beach Fishing Piers in 2022.
The Virginia Aquarium partners with these piers and others throughout the community through the Virginia Aquarium Pier Partner Program to educate local anglers, minimize harm to turtles during hooking events, and provide quality medical care for hooked sea turtles. The four partnered piers have signage, recovery gear and pier staff who are willing to assist when a hooked sea turtle is reported.
Anglers who accidentally hook a sea turtle will not get in trouble, the aquarium said. The aquarium asks that anyone who hooks a sea turtle not release it and instead report it to the Virginia Aquarium's Stranding Response Team at (757) 385-7575,
What to do if a sea turtle is hooked by a fishing line:
- Inform the pier attendant (if there is one) ASAP who can supply recovery gear.
- Call the Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding Response Team.
- Use a net to bring the turtle to the top of the pier. DO NOT lift by the hook if at all avoidable. Lifting by the hook can cause severe damage.
- If the turtle is too large to net, try to walk it to the beach.
- Leave the hook in place. Removing it may cause harm and make medical treatment more difficult.
- When you have control of the turtle, cut the line but leave at least two feet of line attached to the hook.
- Keep turtle out of direct sunlight.
- Cover carapace (shell) with damp towel.