Eastern Pacific Ocean – Coast Guardsmen aboard the Cutter Stratton from Alameda, Calif., rescued two sea turtles while investigating a suspicious item floating in a known drug transit zone off the coast of Central America May 9, 2015.
A law enforcement team from the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton sped to the scene of a suspicious object floating in a known drug transit zone in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The object was located by the cutter’s embarked helicopter while on a surveillance mission. When the crew arrived at the scene, they found two sea turtles entangled in fishing line and make shift buoys.
“There was no question what we had to do. And no one spoke a word. We immediately moved in to rescue mode,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Hylan Rousseau, the coxswain of Stratton’s interceptor boat.
An officer-mounted camera worn by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jerry Renfroe, a member of the law enforcement team, captured the rescue operation as Coast Guardsmen aboard the vessel removed green fishing line. One of the turtles had line wrapped around its neck, which restricted its airway causing apparent respiratory distress.
“We cut the first turtle free without much incident. While we were freeing him, we could see the second, and much larger turtle, was quite literally choking to death,” said Chief Petty Officer Brian Milcetich, a member of the law enforcement team. “He had been trying so hard to free himself from the fishing line that he had cinched the line around his own neck.”
After lifting the approximately 70-pound turtle aboard the Coast Guard interceptor boat, the delicate process began. A specialized pair of sheers normally used by emergency medical technicians was used to sever the line. The video shows the turtle spew out water and take a deep breath once the line is removed from its neck.
“Everyone was elated,” said Milcetich. “As you see in the video, he (the turtle) didn’t stick around to celebrate.”
The second turtle splashed back into water and swam away from its rescuers. Following the rescue, the crew stowed their gear and continued patrolling the area.
“It’s another perfect example of the Coast Guard’s ability to quickly adapt to different missions,” said Renfroe.
The Cutter Stratton is one the service’s Legend-Class national security cutters with a crew of approximately 140 people. The Legend Class is one largest and most technologically advanced of the Coast Guard’s newest classes of cutters. The NSCs replace the aging 378-foot high endurance cutters, which have been in service since the 1960s. Compared to legacy cutters, the NSCs’ design provides better sea-keeping and higher sustained transit speeds, greater endurance and range, and the ability to launch and recover small boats from astern, as well as aviation support facilities and a flight deck for helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.