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Kennedy Brothers Rescue Leatherback Sea Turtle, Get Investigated By NOAA

The leatherback sea turtle rescue was in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

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Max and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spent more than 30 minutes untangling a leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) from a buoy line in Nantucket Sound over the 4th of July weekend and the National Marine Fisheries Service is looking into their actions, according to Cape Cod Online. Because the sea turtle is an endangered species, the Kennedy brothers violated the Endangered Species Act when they rescued it because they didn’t have a permit to do so, the report said.

The agency has gathered pictures, gear, and other evidence that was related to the rescue and has spoken with the brothers, letting them know that they violated the law when they rescued the estimated 500-pound turtle.


A statement on the NOAA website attributed to Robert F. Kennedy reads:
“When we spotted a sea turtle in trouble over the 4th of July weekend, our first impulse was to do what we could to help free the animal,” he said in the statement. “But we realize that the action we took was pretty risky, these are large, powerful animals.”
“For both the animal and your own safety, we encourage any member of the public who encounters an entangled sea turtle or marine mammal to call NOAA Fisheries’ disentanglement hotline,” Kennedy said. That number is (866) 755-6622.

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While the agency was appreciative of the concern the Kennedy’s had for the turtle and nobody got hurt during the rescue, the agency urges people to report these types of incidents to the Sea Turtle Disentanglement Network, which is comprised of 16 organizations that have the expertise to respond to stranded and entangled sea turtles.

In the YouTube video posted by the paper, Robert said the buoy line was wrapped around the turtle’s neck seven times and wrapped around two flippers. It took him and his brother about 30 minutes to cut the line. He said that the turtle was trying to dive almost the entire time but could not.

The leatherback sea turtle is the largest turtle in the world and can grow to 1,400 pounds, though 800-1,000 pounds is more common. It is known for its leathery skin rather than a hard carapace like other turtles. They have been recorded diving more than 3,900 feet and feed primarily on jellyfish.


The Kennedy clan is well known as an oceangoing family. Is it time for Robert Jr. and Max to work to become experts in sea turtle rescue? Leave a comment below.

John B. Virata currently keeps a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata