KEY WEST, Fla (ABC NEWS) — A crowd of onlookers cheered Friday, as Splinter the green seat turtle was slowly lowered into the Atlantic Ocean. Just two months earlier, Splinter was found caught in a fishing net, a spear protruding from her neck.
Splinter was found in September off Key Largo, entangled in a commercial fishing line with a spear more than half the length of her body sticking out of her neck. Injured, but alive, the 150 pound protected sea turtle was taken to Turtle Hospital, where veterinarians performed an emergency surgery to remove the more than 3-foot-long spear.
“Splinter’s release is an incredible opportunity to educate the general public that sea turtles are off-limits in the United States,” said Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach. “They’re protected by both federal and state laws, and you can’t touch a sea turtle unless you’re on a permit to help them.”
According to Zirkelbach, post-surgical treatment at the hospital included wound care with natural honey, broad-spectrum antibiotics, vitamins and fluids, and a diet of natural sea grass, green vegetables and seafood.
Turtle Hospital and several Florida Keys businesses have joined to pledge $25,000 as a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever speared Splinter.
Since it opened over 30 years ago, Turtle Hospital has treated and rehabilitated more than 2,000 injured sea turtles.