INLET BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Dozens of people gathered to celebrate the homecoming of a rescued sea turtle Tuesday morning.
Miss Leia, a subadult loggerhead sea turtle was found near a pier in Panama City Beach with fish hooks attached to its mouth and flipper in late April.
A fisherman noticed the sea turtle and notified officials.
Gulf World Marine Institute stranding coordinator Lauren Albrittain said the pier’s staff, lifeguards, surf patrol and the Panama City Beach Turtle Watch helped aid in Miss Leia’s rescue.
“The fisherman did the right thing and contacted us, and we were able to get out all the hooks and line off of this animal,” Albrittain said.
She said they were able to safely remove the hooks, along with fishing line wrapped around the sea turtle’s flippers.
Albrittain said they also noticed boat propeller wounds on the sea turtle, as well. The wounds were reportedly in the process of healing with they rescued it.
After over a month of rehabilitation, Miss Leia was medically cleared to return to the Gulf of Mexico.
Once the sea turtle maneuvered its way safely back to the Gulf waters, Albrittain said she was happy to have had a part in Miss Leia’s recovery and return home.
“A lot of people ask us if we’re sad when the turtles are released, and my personal answer is no… This is why we’re here,” Albrittain said. “We love to see them go back to their natural habitat, so we’re just excited.”
Onlookers at the release were just as thrilled.
“If it wasn’t rescued, it would’ve been in serious trouble,” young bystander Asher Burgener said. “Thanks to all the helpers out there… I’m so very, very glad that y’all rescued [the sea turtle].”
Gulf World Marine Institute wants to remind the public that if you see a stranded or deceased sea turtle or marine mammal, immediately contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-3922 or *FWC.