COURTESY DEC | The sea turtle rescued rescued off Orient Point.
A 5-foot-long leatherback sea turtle – the world’s largest living turtle and an endangered species – was rescued off Orient Point Saturday, state Department of Environmental Conservation officials said.
DEC officers on a routine patrol discovered the sea turtle trapped about two miles off of Orient Point in the “fast moving waters” of Plum Gut, according to a release. The turtle had become ensnared in the ropes of a lobster buoy, which were tangled around the animal’s lower torso, according to DEC officials.
The DEC officers were able to cut away buoy ropes, freeing the large turtle.
“Saving such a large animal required a great deal of skill and the officers involved in this rescue should be commended for using their knowledge and boatmanship to rescue this magnificent animal.” said DEC commissioner Joe Martens.
It is estimated that only 115,000 adult female leatherback sea turtles still exist, making them an endangered species at both state and federal levels according to the DEC.
The leatherback can grow up to 6-feet in length and weigh up to 1,300 pounds, earning its name for its leathery skin.
In the Atlantic, leatherback sea turtles are found regularly off the coast of New England, especially Massachusetts and the Gulf of Maine, and in Long Island waters, according to the release.
TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | A Cross Sound Ferry vessel passes by the Orient Point Lighthouse on it’s way to Connecticut.
The Orient Point Lighthouse, also known as the “coffeepot” light, just off the tip of the North Fork in Plum Gut, is a fixed aid to navigation, but the the federal government’s deadline for would-be buyers to submit purchase bids keeps shifting like the tide.
The federal General Services Administration began the auction last summer and initially planned to sell the lighthouse to the highest bidder within two months. But last week, the GS announced on its property auction website, http://realestatesales.gov, that the auction would end Sept. 17.
The closing date was since been moved to Sept. 20 and then extended to just before noon today, Saturday. The GSA indicates that another extension is possible. Nine bids have been submitted to date, with the highest at $100,000. The East End Seaport Museum was initially interested in seeking ownership but determined it did not have the required financial resources.
Whoever purchases the structure must allow the U.S. Coast Guard access to maintain the light.
The lighthouse is made of cast iron and is partially filled with concrete. It stands 45 feet tall with three stories of living quarters and two watch decks, according to the GSA.