ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - A sea turtle made the long swim home Wednesday nearly a year after a fisherman found it tangled in a fishing line.
Staff with the University of Florida Whitney Laboratory Sea Turtle Hospital released the turtle named Barnett from Anastasia State Park.
“It doesn’t get old,” said Catherine Eastman, sea turtle program coordinator. “Every time I see it I’m amazed at what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
Barnett’s journey began last July when a fisherman found the turtle in the Matanzas River near Summer Haven. The fisherman, after whom the turtle was named, brought the turtle to Whitney Lab.
The fishing line had cut off circulation to one of Barnett’s flippers.
“That meant we don’t remove that monofilament, we had to actually remove the flipper,” Eastman said.
Barnett, estimated to be just 5-to-7 years old, was also treated for a tumor disease commonly found in sea turtles.
Nearly a year later, dozens of people braved the rain to watch Barnett’s return to open water. Among them was Ethan Porch, 8, who first saw Barnett during a school field trip to the hospital.
“I was excited he was being released because I was very interested that he had, like, no arm,” Porch said.
“We got a text that said he was gonna be released, we decided to come over and we’re very excited that we did,” said Nancy Phelps, Ethan’s grandmother.
Barnett was outfitted with a tag on his front flipper and a microchip. Eastman said they won’t necessarily track him, but the equipment will help identify him should he surface again.
“Let’s hope we don’t see him again,” Eastman said. “That would be the best for him.”
Eastman said Barnett has become the poster child for marine debris.
“Even if you throw away something on land, a lot of times it makes its way down to the ocean and unfortunately that means it encounters a lot of animals along the way,” she said.
For more information on Whitney Lab and the sea turtle hospital, click here.