VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Officials at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center provided some tips on what to do if you hook a sea turtle while fishing.

Officials from the Stranding Response Team at the aquarium say they have seen a record number of turtles, 58 to be exact, that were found hooked since April 30. Most of the turtles were the critically endangered Kemp’s Ridleys.

The previous record for most-hooked turtles was back in 2018 with 45.

The team has then provided a handy guide to help residents if ever they snag one in their line:

  • Don’t panic, and don’t let the turtle go! You will NOT get into legal trouble for hooking a turtle, and following this guide can help create a better outcome for the animal.
  • Inform pier staff so they can retrieve the turtle. If pier staff are not readily available, you may pull the turtle up onto the pier with a net (NOT by the hook). The major fishing piers in our area (Virginia Beach, Oceanview, Buckroe) have sea turtle recovery nets to help with this since they are part of our Pier Partner Program. If the turtle is too large for the net, try walking it to the beach.
  • Call Stranding Response at (757) 385-7575 and provide them with any information you can. They are available 24/7, 365 days a year to respond to and recover stranded sea turtles and marine mammals anywhere in Virginia!
  • DO NOT REMOVE THE HOOK. This needs to be done by professionals, i.e. our Stranding Team. Cut your fishing line at least two feet from the hook.
  • Keep the turtle out of direct sunlight and cover its carapace (shell) with a damp towel while you wait for the Stranding Team to arrive.

Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.