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For Release: Tuesday, July 9, 2013

DEC Environmental Conservation Officers Save Leatherback Turtle Off Orient Point

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) on a routine boat safety check and marine enforcement monitoring patrol off of Orient Point on Saturday, July 6, were able to release an approximate five-foot long leatherback sea turtle that had become ensnared in a lobster buoy.

ECOs were patrolling in an area approximately two miles off of Orient Point in the fast moving waters of Plum Gut when they came upon the animal. Reaching over from their Boston Whaler patrol boats, officers were able to grab the line, which had become ensnared around the lower torso of animal and cut the rope away.

"Long Island's coastal waters are home to sea turtles and many marine mammals and offer exciting wildlife viewing opportunities for people on the water," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. "Saving such a large animal required a great deal of skill and the officers involved in this rescue should be commended for using their knowledge and boatmanship to rescue this magnificent animal."

The leatherback is a marine reptile and is the largest living turtle, reaching up to six feet (183 cm) in length and weighing up to 1,300 pounds (590 kg). The turtle's barrel-shaped body is covered with leathery skin. This turtle also has disproportionately large front flippers, which allow it to swim for long periods of time and cover great distances.

Leatherback sea turtles are found all around the globe, from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. This is the most extensive range of any reptile. Populations commonly range farther north than other sea turtles because of their ability to maintain a warmer core body temperature over longer periods of time. In the Atlantic, leatherback sea turtles are found regularly off the coast of New England, especially Massachusetts and the Gulf of Maine, in Long Island New York waters, and in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as along the shores of Canada, the British Isles, Iceland, Europe and Spain. It is estimated that only 115,000 adult female leatherback sea turtles now exist.

Sea turtles will at times become stranded on or near the shore. In order to aid those that may still be alive and to facilitate the timely and efficient handling of carcasses, a Stranding Network was established in 1980 through the cooperation of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Through this system, strandings can be reported by calling a hotline number: (631) 369-9829. Marine biologists at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation handle the stranded and dead specimens.

Additional information on sea turtles found in New York State waters can be found by visiting the DEC's website.

To report any environmental crime, please contact DEC's toll free 24-hour TIPP hotline at: 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332). DEC keeps the identity of all TIPP callers confidential.

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