"How to observe, but not harm, Matagorda County sea turtles"By Nicole Pilson Coastal & Marine Resources Texas A&M AgriLife Matagorda County

   When you think of sea turtles, do you think of tropical islands and clear, blue waters? 
   Do you ever associate these charismatic creatures with Matagorda Bay? 
   A lot of people may not realize it but- yes! - We do have sea turtles here in Matagorda. 
   If you’re lucky you might see some green sea turtles swimming along the seawall in Palacios. 
   Albeit a rare spotting- even the endangered, Texas state turtle, the Kemp’s Ridley, can be seen around the Matagorda Peninsula. 
   It is such a treat to catch a glimpse of these marine animals!
   As the sea turtles go about their day searching for food or a nesting area, they sometimes find themselves on the business end of a fishing rod. 
   For a lot people this can feel like a precarious situation; people are oftentimes too nervous to call wildlife authorities if they have accidentally caught a turtle. 
   This does more harm than good. Recreational fishermen will try to safely unhook the turtle and then send the animal on its way. 
   Unfortunately, these good intentions can result in injury or death to the turtles. 
   If the sea turtle at the other end of your line has managed to completely swallow the hook, do not try to pull the hook out. 
   This could tear their stomach lining or esophagus, or result in setting the hook even deeper into the animal causing internal bleeding or suffocation. 
   A natural reaction would be to lift the sea turtle out of the water by pulling on the line. 
   These animals are pretty dense and heavy which may result in your line snapping before you can bring the turtle up on to your boat or the fishing pier. 
   Now the turtle has the hook lodged even further into their mouth, throat, or stomach. 
   The recommended way to bring up a turtle you have hooked is by using a dip net, just like you would with a larger fish. 
   This reduces strain on the turtle, line, and prevents further tearing/setting of the hook on/in the sea turtle. 
   Before attempting to remove any line or hooks, call 1-866-TURTLE-5 (1-866-887-8535) for assistance. 
   This number can also be called if you have spotted a nesting turtle on the beach. 
   Nesting reports help organizations, like Turtle Island Restoration Network, learn where sea turtles are and when- this increases their efforts in protection and rehabilitation. 
   It is better to call the listed number and report a turtle you have caught or spotted on the beach, than to take matters into your own hands or to ignore it all completely. 
   In the coming weeks, you will see signs around Matagorda county and bay at boat ramps and fishing piers with information on what to do if you see a sea turtle or accidentally catch one. 
   The signs will all have the turtle hotline number and some will illustrate what to do/not to do if you are to catch a sea turtle. 
   So be on the lookout for these signs!
   We should all be stewards of our local Texas wildlife and protect it for generations to come. 
   Do not be afraid to call 1-866-887-8535 when you come into contact with a sea turtle as calling helps protect these animals. 
   Sea turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. 
   This makes it illegal to harm, harass, intentionally injure, or kill a protected animal. 
   If you see someone violating this law, report it to NOAA Law Enforcement at 1-800-853-1964. 
   Sea turtles are a wonder to see lazily grazing in seagrass beds or coming up on the beach to nest - let’s all do our part in protecting these animals! 
   Again, call 1-866-TURTLE-5 to report an entangled, hooked, or nesting sea turtle.

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