Rescue crews free 800-pound leatherback turtle off N.J. coast

Rescuers have come to the aid of a large leatherback turtle entangled in fishing gear off the southern New Jersey coast.

Someone aboard a recreational fishing boat spotted the 800-pound turtle Saturday, notified the Coast Guard and provided it with GPS coordinates for the turtle's location.

A crew from Coast Guard Station Atlantic City took a representative from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine to a response boat operated by a crew from the Coast Guard's Cape May station. That boat soon located the entangled turtle.

Rescuers reached down into the water and used their hands to untangle the fishing gear and free the turtle, which swam off.

One of the rescuers told The Star-Ledger it had been one of his better experiences in the Coast Guard.

"Just seeing the animal so close and helping marine life. Everyone was pretty energized about the whole experience," Petty Officer 2nd Class Nick Giannaris told the newspaper.

Leatherbacks are among the largest reptiles in the world. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says incidental capture in fishing gear is a primary threat to them.

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