Deckhand Jason Kunewa was working on the “San Mateo,” a whale watching boat 15 miles off the coast of Dana Point, California, when he saw what he thought was a big kelp paddy in the distance. Then it started to move, and Kunewa became unsure what it was.
As the creature swam closer to the boat, he recognized it was a Leatherback Sea Turtle swimming with a huge strand of kelp wrapped around its left flipper and neck, the Orange County Register reports.
The kelp was definitely a drag on its swimming capabilities, so Kunewa grabbed a filet knife and his GoPro, jumped in the ocean and swam toward the turtle. Immediately Kunewa noticed the massiveness of the reptile, which he estimated at around 700 pounds with a body that was three times his size.
“I had adrenaline going through my body, but I was mostly concerned about getting that thing off without hurting myself or the turtle,” the 39-year-old told the Register.
Kunewa was able to grab the kelp and with a quick upward motion, cut the strand that managed to slow the turtle down.
The entire event lasted about 15 seconds, and as the turtle became free of the entanglement, it began to swim faster, Kunewa said.
“It was relieved, you could tell,” he said. “It started swimming faster.”
While Kunewa’s action is commendable, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration advises that anyone who sees a sea turtle in trouble to call the Disentanglement Network at 1-866-755-NOAA (6622). Because of the size of sea turtles and the potential for injury to the turtle and the human, NOAA recommends that disentanglements be left to the experts.