The Gulf Islands National Seashore hopes fishermen and the community, in general, can learn from a sea turtle that suffered repeat injuries in the Fort Pickens area in November.
Folks fishing on the beach on Nov. 17 alerted National Seashore rangers of a sea turtle they accidentally hooked. A series of calls were put out and within an hour, a district biologist responded to the sea turtle, which had nine hooks and a lead weight stuck to its body.
National Seashore spokesperson Brent Everitt said the sea turtle's injuries were a result of multiple people cutting their fishing lines after hooking the creature. Everitt said that's exactly what people shouldn't do.
"It is just something that happens and it is unfortunate, but the real unfortunate part is if a fisherman just cuts the line and lets it go," Everitt said. "That causes a lot more damage to the sea turtle.
"Sometimes sea turtles just get habituated to feeding around the fishing piers that we have in the local community and that's unfortunate," Everitt added. "But there are things that we can do as stewards to make sure that turtle gets properly taken care of if that does happen."
The sea turtle had successful surgery and is said to be doing well in the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park rehabilitation facility in Fort Walton Beach.
Everitt said it's imperative that the public knows who to contact if they see a situation like this unfold in front of them at the beach.
"It's important for all of us in the community, not just the seashore biologists and the Florida Wildlife Commission, but everybody in the community to know what they can do to protect and preserve our amazing national resources," Everitt said. "It's really what this community is all about. These wonderful beaches and this incredible wildlife we have here, from our snow birds to our sea turtles, we can all play a part to make sure we're protecting these animals."
More: Seven rehabilitated sea turtles released at Gulf Islands National Seashore
The Gulf Islands National Seashore asked the community to bookmark a page on the National Park Service website that has instructions on proper wildlife reporting.