Endangered sea turtle found impaled with 3-foot long spear in Florida

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(Photo: The Turtle Hospital)

(CBS NEWS)- A 150-pound green sea turtle was found impaled by a spear off Key Largo, Florida, last week. The turtle was rescued and taken to a local hospital, and now officials are searching for a culprit.

The Turtle Hospital in Marathon removed the three-foot spear from the sub-adult green sea turtle‘s neck after a local boater discovered it and called officials for help. The hospital said it’s the second sea turtle found this summer impaled by a spear — the first was found dead in June in Biscayne National Park.

Doctors performed emergency surgery to remove the spear, which spanned more than half of her body. “Splinter” is now in stable condition and is recovering at the hospital. 

“It’s highly unlikely this was an accident as the turtle has an injury on its plastron that looks like someone tried to spear her on her underside.” Dr. Doug Mader said in a statement. “The amazing team at the Turtle Hospital worked their magic to give this turtle a second chance. Now it is just a matter of healing before she can be released.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement team saved the spear as evidence and is searching for the person or people responsible.

All species of sea turtles are protected under the United States Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act. It is a felony to touch or harm a sea turtle in the U.S., punishable by both fines and jail time.

This summer has been a particularly rough one for Florida turtles. In August, a woman found several baby sea turtles who had been badly burned on a beach in Brevard county. In June, a woman in Miami Beach was arrested for poking a nest with a wooden stake and stomping on turtle eggs. 

“Human activities have tipped the scales against the survival of these ancient mariners,” the World Wildlife Fund said. “Slaughtered for their eggs, meat, skin, and shells, sea turtles suffer from poaching and over-exploitation. They also face habitat destruction and accidental capture in fishing gear.”

 The Turtle Hospital’s chairman, Richie Moretti, is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of those responsible. 

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