Monday, September 28, 2009

Morro Bay fisherman rescues giant Leatherback turtle

Watch the news report on KSBY-TV 6 NBC San Luis Obispo here.

Online story follows below:

Reported by: Stacy Daniel

A local fisherman gives new meaning to the phrase "catch and release."

There are countless creatures in the sea and thanks to commercial fisherman, Tom Hafer, crossing paths with one of them, there's a lucky turtle swimming around out there tight now.

Hafer says, "I couldn't really make out what it was so, we went a little closer. We found out it was a stuck turtle, a Leatherback."

The Leatherback turtle is the largest living turtle in the world.

Adults weigh between 700 and 2-thousand pounds and measure between 4 to 8 feet in length.

Hafer says, "He was a rather big turtle. He was probably an easy 1,000 lbs. His shell was probably 5 or 6 feet long, if not longer. His head was bigger than a 5 gallon bucket."

Hafer says as he approached the enormous sea creature he could tell the big guy was desperate and needed help.

Hafer explains, "He was just so stuck. His arms and his legs were just wrapped and wrapped around the thick kelp."

Hafer said the turtles skin was sun bleached and it's eyes weary and sunken into it's skull.

"The font of his fins and under his neck was all white from bobbing in the kelp for so long. He must have been there a couple of weeks." says Hafer.

He didn't want to touch the trapped turtle because he knows as a federally protected creature it's against the law. So, instead he cut away some of the kelp and returned to shore hoping the turtle would somehow be able to free himself overnight.

No such luck, the turtle was just too caught in the kelp to breakaway.

Not wanting the beautiful creature to die a slow, agonizing death Hafer knew he had to do something.

Hafer says, "I figured that the only way we're going to be able to save this turtle is if we wrap a rope around him and drag him out of the kelp so, that's what we did."

Using a yellow rope and a stick Hafer managed to lasso one of the turtles front legs and pull it, by boat, to safety.

Hafer says, "We got him out to deeper clearer water and we took the rope off and he shot away."

But not before letting Hafer know how much he appreciated his good deed.

Hafer says, "He cracked me a little smile before he took off."

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