Sept. 2, 2004 – After spending five days in holding tanks at Coral World, three green sea turtles regained their freedom as they were released into the sea Thursday morning.
The turtles had been out of the ocean since early Saturday morning when they were reportedly captured by a 54-year-old Anna's Retreat man and other individuals in the water around Coki Beach.
Myron King is facing federal charges of possession of the three green sea turtles, which are an endangered species.
Dan O'Brian, assistant special agent of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries office, said the Immigration and Customs Enforcement marine unit ordered King's vessel to stop about 12:30 a.m. Saturday. King's boat then sped up and the officers pursued.
When the boat ran aground near the Water Bay ramp, the officers could see the turtles. One suspect fled the scene, but the officers were able to arrest King.
Department of Planning and Natural Resources enforcement officers and NOAA were notified along with Coral World staff, O'Brian said.
"This is a violation of the Endangered Species Act," O'Brian said of the incident, adding that removing endangered animals from U.S. waters and transporting them in any way was a federal violation.
The turtles have been in holding tanks at Coral World since about 4:30 a.m. Saturday. They were measured and examined for damages. The largest of the turtles weighs more than 300 pounds, while the two smaller ones both weigh less than 200 pounds. The three turtles, all of which were females, were found in good condition except for a small break in the scut – the edge of the shell – of one of the smaller turtles.
"It will grow back," Jody Vaona, Coral World aquarist, said of the turtle's scut.
After examining them, Vaona had recommended the turtles be released into the ocean.
"We were very fortunate today to release these animals," O'Brian said Thursday, as the creatures were about to be placed back into their natural habitat. He said they could have been in worse condition, making them unable to survive in the wild.
All three turtles were taken aboard the Nautilus and were released into Water Bay, just off the Coral World dock. They quickly swam away once entering the water, without a glance backwards towards those who had helped them in regaining their freedom.
As for King, his case will be heard in District Court Oct. 25. He could face up to six months imprisonment and a $25,000 fine if convicted. Anyone with information on the other individuals involved in this incident should contact DPNR enforcement officers at 714-9543.
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