Coast Guard frees sea turtle caught in fishing line

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U.S. Coast Guard photo

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard came to the rescue of a massive sea turtle that got caught in fishing gear off the coast of Maine on September 20, 2015. A crew found the 6-foot turtle, identified as an endangered leatherback, caught in a line about 15 miles south of Cape Elizabeth.

A boat crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Campbell tied their vessel to a rescue buoy so they could shut off the engine, minimizing the chance that the propeller would harm the reptile, the Coast Guard said. Two crewmembers held the line that was wrapped around the turtle's right flipper and then pulled the animal next to the boat.

"The crew attempted to gain control of the Leatherback, which proved to be no easy task as the frightened turtle frantically fought back, flipping through the water," Ensign Robert Chamberlain, a crewmember aboard the Campbell, said in a statement.

Then a crew member severed the line without harming the turtle or any crewmembers, the Coast Guard said. The turtle then swam away to the open sea.

The largest sea turtles in the world, leatherbacks can grow up to 2,000 pounds and about 6.5 feet, according to NOAA Fisheries. They feed on soft-bodied animals, such as jellyfish.