It’s going to be a perfect day in the Lowcountry. The air is bright and clear with a faint trace of the humidity to come. The sun is rising beatifically above the horizon, promising a late-afternoon scorcher. But for now, the mild morning is cool, dewy and still. So still, in fact, that you might think to yourself: It’s the perfect day to go fishing.
You grab your gear and load up the car, breaking a light sweat. (After all, the morning might be cool, but it’s still spring in the South.) You play one of your favorite songs and roll down the window, letting the breeze flow through your fingers. The saltmarsh slides by to your left, a rolling panorama of greens, blues, browns and yellows.
Yes, it’s a perfect day indeed.
You arrive at your destination, eager to begin. As you walk across the pier, your footsteps thumping hollowly against the weathered wood, you spy the perfect spot. Casting your line, you wait.
Maybe you’re fishing for the first time. Or perhaps you’re a seasoned fisher. Regardless, you’re unprepared for what’s waiting for you at the end of the line…
It’s a sea turtle.
A Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, to be exact. The smallest of the sea turtle species, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are listed globally as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and endangered by the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). Heavily impacted by incidental capture in fishing gear, Kemp’s ridley population growth has been disrupted and is in need of a helping hand (or flipper, as it were).
Many Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) member facilities are doing important work to protect sea turtles through fieldwork, rehabilitation, education and outreach programs. The Kemp’s ridley, along with the Eastern Pacific leatherback, is the focus of an AZA Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) program called the AZA Sea Turtle SAFE Program. The overall goal of this program is to make significant contributions to the conservation of sea turtles by utilizing the combined powers of the AZA community. Together, AZA facilities are protecting Kemp’s ridley sea turtles by helping ensure population growth and sustainability.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, like their fellow species, are ancient and resilient animals yes, but they still need our help to ensure their survival and the survival of sea turtles everywhere.
So, what should you do if, on a perfect spring morning, you catch an unsuspecting sea turtle on your line?
Don’t throw it back. Leave a little line for the veterinarian to follow (it helps with removing the hook), and be a hero to a little Kemp’s ridley by calling the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline at (800) 922-5431.
Because every day is a perfect day to save a sea turtle.
Happy World Sea Turtle Day ❤️