Written by Ens. Thomas Wright with contributions from Pacific Area Command
Protecting living marine resources is one of the 11 statutory missions of the U.S. Coast Guard. While thinking about Coast Guard rescues, many think about the Coast Guard assiting those in distress, but many forget about the Coast Guard’s committment to rescuing those that also live beneath the water’s surface.
Last month, Coast Guard Cutter Alert homeported in Astoria, Oregon, conducted a unique rescue while on a counter narcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean near Central America.
Ens. Thomas Wright, the deck watch officer, and Seaman Rico Stanley, the lookout spotted a strange debris field in the water. After closer investigation, the crew realized the debris was actually a pair of Olive Ridley sea turtles entangled in fishing nets.
The crew carefully maneuvered the cutter alongside the turtles where they were safely held in place by crewmembers on deck. The turtles were hopelessly trapped in a bundle fishing gear and bottles used for make shift buoys, which obviously limited the turtles’ ability to feed and escape predators. The cutter’s rescue swimmer, Seaman Brandon Groshens was deployed to release the turtles from the netting.
“Jumping into the ocean to free a couple of sea turtles is not something you wake up in the morning expecting to do,” said Groshens. “It was a really great feeling as they swam away, knowing that we just saved their lives.”
According to NOAA Fisheries, the Olive Ridley sea turtle is considered in endangered off the Pacific coast of Mexico and threatened everywhere else in the world including where Alert found the two entangled turtles. This means the Olive Ridley turtle is likely to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future.
Once the crew freed the turtles, the pair swam away apparently in good health thanks to the efforts of the quick thinking crew of the Cutter Alert.
“I’m especially proud of my diligent watch standers and how the crew quickly came together in performing their good deed for the day,” said Cmdr. Brian Anderson, commanding officer of the Alert.