A unique rescue operation saves two endangered sea turtles

Seaman Brandon Groshens, of Pendleton, Ore., and crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Alert from Astoria, Ore., work to free to Olive Ridley sea turtles entangled in a bundle of fishing gear off Central America Feb. 10, 2015. The crew was deployed in support of a counter narcotics mission when they spotted the turtles, which are considered a threatened species by NOAA Fisheries. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Marissa Massey)

Seaman Brandon Groshens and crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Alert work to free to Olive Ridley sea turtles entangled in a bundle of fishing gear off Central America Feb. 10, 2015. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Marissa Massey)

Story by Lt. Donnie Brzuska

ASTORIA, Ore. – The Coast Guard Cutter Alert from Astoria conducted a unique rescue while on a counter narcotics patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean near Central America Feb. 10, 2015.

Ensign Thomas Wright, the deck watch officer, and Seaman Rico Stanley, the lookout spotted a strange debris field in the water. After closer investigation, the crew realized the debris was actually a pair of Olive Ridley sea turtles entangled in fishing nets.

The crew carefully maneuvered the cutter alongside the turtles where they were safely held in place by crew members on deck. The turtles were hopelessly trapped in a bundle fishing gear and bottles used for makeshift buoys, which obviously limited the turtles’ ability to feed and escape predators. The cutter’s rescue swimmer, Seaman Brandon Groshens, of Pendleton, Oregon, was deployed to release the turtles from the netting.

“Jumping into the ocean to free a couple of sea turtles is not something you wake up in the morning expecting to do,” said Groshens. “It was a really great feeling as they swam away, knowing that we just saved their lives.”

According to NOAA Fisheries, the Olive Ridley sea turtle is considered in endangered off the Pacific coast of Mexico and threatened everywhere else in the world including where Alert found the two entangled turtles. This means the Olive Ridley turtle is likely to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future.

Once the crew freed the turtles, the pair swam away apparently in good health thanks to the efforts of the quick thinking crew of the Cutter Alert.

“I’m especially proud of my diligent watch standers and how the crew quickly came together in performing their good deed for the day,” said Cmdr. Brian Anderson, commanding officer of the Alert.

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