Leatherback Turtle Rescued from Fishing Gear off Maine Coast

A small-boat crew deployed from the Coast Guard Cutter Campbell untangles a 6-foot long Leatherback turtle from fishing line 15 miles off Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Sept. 20, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
A small-boat crew deployed from the Coast Guard Cutter Campbell untangles a 6-foot long Leatherback turtle from fishing line 15 miles off Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Sept. 20, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine -- The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday rescued a 6-foot leatherback sea turtle found entangled in fishing gear about 15 miles south of Cape Elizabeth.

A good Samaritan notified the Kittery-based Coast Guard cutter Campbell of the turtle in distress, and a rescue boat carrying a crew of five headed out to find the turtle, according to a release from the Coast Guard.

The rescue boat's coxswain tied the rescue boat to a fishing buoy and cut the engine to reduce the risk of the propeller injuring the turtle.

"The crew attempted to gain control of the leatherback, which proved to be no easy task as the frightened turtle frantically fought back, flipping through the water," Ensign Robert Chamberlain, a crewmember aboard the Campbell, said in the release.

The crew pulled the sea turtle alongside the boat by the line and float wrapped around its right flipper, and the line was cut with no harm to the turtle or any crew members. The crew watched the turtle swim away, then was able to splice the cut line to salvage the fishing gear, according to the release.

The leatherback is the largest of all living sea turtles and is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

In August 2012, a Coast Guard crew rescued a 5-foot sea turtle from lobster pot rigging a half mile south of Great Duck Island, south of Mount Desert Island.

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