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Don't touch the turtle

DEC. 12 — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was not pleased to find a 5- to 10-pound endangered green sea turtle shoved behind a basket in the bow of a 44-year-old commercial fisherman’s boat, according to Florida Today, a community newspaper.

The Commission found the turtle at about 8:45 p.m. last Thursday when conducting a random check of the man’s boat at the Sunrise Boat Ramp at Port Canaveral. The man had traveled from his hometown of Melbourne and had been cast-netting mullet with a valid state commercial fishing license.

The man claimed to know nothing about the sea turtle, but authorities were suspicious since it was kept separate from the fish. Illegally possessing an endangered sea turtle is a third-degree felony, according to the report.

“His excuse was that it was dark and he didn’t know what he was putting on his boat,” said Officer David Wigley of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission in the report.

Wigley stated in the report that there is a large black market for sea turtle eggs and meat, and illegal trade is a problem mainly in Latin America, the Philippines, India and Indonesia. The fisherman is expected to be released from Brevard County Jail in Sharpes on a $2,000 bond, but could face a maximum of five years in prison and $5,000 in fines if convicted.

After the arrest, Wigley assisted in setting the turtle free at the boat ramp, where it swam a few circle and then disappeared. Officials warn others that even if people are trying to help stranded sea turtles, the reptiles shouldn’t be touched. Call local authorities.

— Elizabeth Ellis