'This is so sad': Lifeguard saves sea turtle tangled in fishing line off Miramar Beach
MIRAMAR BEACH — A South Walton Fire District lifeguard and bystanders saved a sea turtle that was struggling to swim after it became entangled in fishing line Sunday.
Jack Nabers was on duty about 3:30 p.m. at a watchtower near South Geronimo Street when he noticed something strange. An animal appeared to be flopping around in the Gulf of Mexico 100 to 150 yards from shore.
“I was sitting there in my tower watching and I kept seeing this thing,” Nabers said. “I couldn’t tell what it was, but it would come up on the surface. It was flipping it’s little flippers around and then it would go back down, and I kept seeing it do it.”
Nabers took out a pair of binoculars and began watching the spot. Eventually the animal came back up to the surface and he realized it was a very large sea turtle with what looked like “an entire fishing pole caught to it.”
He radioed his lieutenant and grabbed a rescue board to paddle out to the turtle. When he got to the trough between the first and second sandbar he could see the shadow of the turtle below him.
“So I put my goggles on and stuck my head in the water and it was literally just laying on the sea floor caught in all the lines,” Nabers said. “I was like ‘This is so sad.’ ”
The turtle was completely wrapped up in fishing line, with the hook and pole still attached, and was unable to move its right flipper. Bystanders helped Nabers get the turtle back to shore, where he began removing the fishing line using supplies from his medical pack.
Nabers called for bystanders to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to alert them of the turtle’s condition, and once all of the fishing line was removed, the turtle swam off with no apparent injuries. The crowd began cheering as the turtle swam safely back to sea.
The sight was “a feeling like I’ve never felt,” Nabers said. “Especially to see an animal like that that was probably pretty old because it was a big one. It was almost like it was ‘Thank you’ and it swam off. It was pretty cool.”
Unfortunately, incidents like that appear to be growing ever more common with people not cleaning up their trash, said Nabers, who added that the situation could have been avoided.
Beachgoers are reminded to “leave no trace” in order to help protect wildlife.
“It’s so easy to just go throw your trash away and just leave your footprints in the sand. That’s about all you should be leaving,” Nabers said. “Pick up your trash, please. That was extremely sad to see. It’s so important and it’s so easy to do.”
Anyone who encounters a sick, injured or stranded sea turtle in Walton County should call South Walton Turtle Watch at 850-865-4503 or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922.
“They will come out there and they will help it as well,” Nabers said. “So always, always call them.”
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