An endangered loggerhead sea turtle was rescued on Sunday after vets removed an obstruction lodged in its throat -- a four-inch metal fishing hook.
The Inwater Research Group, local biologists intent on protecting Florida's wildlife and coasts, found the sea turtle at the Port St. Lucie Power Plant.
Inwater Director Micheal Bressette told HuffPost Miami, "At first we didn't think this animal was in distress because it acted like all the other loggerheads we capture. It was only after our preliminary examination that we saw the longline monofiliment in its mouth."
Just as water from the Atlantic Ocean is drawn in to cool the plant's nuclear reactors, sea turtles are also pulled into the intake canal, Bressette told HuffPost Miami. 14,000 turtles have been rescued from the power plant since a monitoring program began in 1976.
"We find that of all the sea turtles we capture at the intake canal," Bresette said, "just over 1% have injuries due to fisheries interactions -- ingested hooks, hooks in flippers, entanglement in monofiliment, bouy lines, and nets."
While loggerheads' jaws are massively powerful so that they can chow on hard-shell conchs and crustaceans, they're no match for something as sharp and hard as a large fishing hook.
The hooked sub-adult turtle, which weighed 100 pounds, was transported to SeaWorld Orlando Sunday night.
The next morning, a veterinary team conducted X-rays (photo below) and blood work before performing surgery to remove the fishing hook. See the veterinarians at work in the video above.
Vets say the turtle is doing well and will continue to monitor it closely before releasing it back into the water.
SeaWorld Orlando has already rescued 9 sea turtles in 2012, and in January, the Turtle Hospital in Marathon rescued another loggerhead sea turtle who had swallowed a spiny puffer fish.
How You Can Help: Inwater runs rescue and refuge programs for local marine life in Key West, Port St. Lucie, Indian River, Lake Worth, and Hutchinson Island, where sea turtles like to nest.
As the group relies on private donations to run their research projects, you can help by donating online. All donators will receive photo updates of how contributions support sea turtle conservation and research.