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Sea Verse Rescues Loggerhead Turtle
Charter Skippers have a heart too

By Mike House, Sportfish Hawaii

On February 23, 2000, the charter vessel Sea Verse III, hailing from Kewalo Basin in Honolulu on Oahu’s South Shore took a group of passengers to sea just like any normal day. They caught one Mahimahi and lost another at leader, but that was it for the fishing activity for the group. Now, that wasn’t because they couldn’t catch any more fish, mind you, it was because they decided to save the life of an endangered loggerhead turtle from entanglement in a fishing net.

The day began like any other, looking for signs of fish on the ocean. Birds, current lines, and bait are all great signs for fish, but the net is the fisherman’s dream. When they came upon the floater about eight miles due South of the harbor, the crew anxiously prepared for a flurry of Mahimahi action. However, as they drew near the net, they saw it was moving and quickly realized the source of the movement was a loggerhead turtle. Captain Lee Severs estimated the turtle’s size at between 400 and 500 pounds, and while it was completely encased in the net, it did have enough mobility to tow its unwanted cargo around the sea.

The passengers and crew immediately decided it was stop fishing time, and they procured a meat hook attached to a line. Crewman Mark Blanchard hit the net on the first try and they gently pulled the net close to the boat. Not wanting to get the propellers caught in the net, the process took quite awhile, and Blanchard had to be restrained by his feet to avoid going overboard.

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Crewman Darryl Hart, also aboard that day, described the turtle as "tired, but still plenty strong." He said the turtle didn’t snap at them at all during the process, but a couple of times it opened its giant mouth to reveal a rather large set of choppers. As the passengers videotaped the whole event, Severs managed to shoot a few still photos. Finally, after cutting line after line, the turtle was free. It swam away with powerful flaps of its huge fins, and the crew agreed it looked healthy as it swam unencumbered for the first time in ages.

The loggerhead turtle is an endangered species, and in late 1999, Judge David Ezra ordered an area closure for longline vessels prohibiting them from operating as an effort to save the loggerhead and leatherback turtles. The ruling, though controversial with the longline fleet, was done as an effort to err on the side of caution and learn more, rather than wait until it was too late. Environmental impact statements are pending.

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