Capt. David White of Cortez had seen sea turtles in the water before.
“I see a lot of them out there, but this sea turtle was acting funny — he was bobbing up and down and obviously having buoyancy issues. So I called Mote to see what I should do,” said White, owner and captain of Anna Maria Fishing Charters, based in Holmes Beach.
White pulled the 220-pound male loggerhead sea turtle aboard his boat Oct. 30, 2016, while fishing a mile offshore of Holmes Beach.
The sea turtle — later named Sea Salt — was released into the Gulf of Mexico Feb. 3 on the beach at Lido Key in Sarasota County.
Back in October, White contacted Mote Marine Laboratory and spoke with Gretchen Lovewell, Mote’s stranding investigations program manager.
“I didn’t want to do put the sea turtle in my boat without asking permission,” White said. “But when I called, they said it was OK to put him in the boat and meet them. So I hauled him aboard.”
Lovewell instructed White to bring the turtle to meet representatives of Mote at the Coquina South Boat Ramp in Bradenton Beach.
From there, Mote representatives took Sea Salt to the Sarasota facility for rehabilitation.
According to White, specialists at Mote determined Sea Salt had traveled through a high concentration of red tide, which entered the animal’s bloodstream.
The rescue provided Mote with a rare opportunity to observe a male sea turtle, since males spend their entire lives in the ocean.
White said Mote could tell Sea Salt is a male turtle because of the large tail.
“Mote was amazing — they kept me informed of what was happening with Sea Salt the whole time,” he said.
White said Lovewell called to let him know Mote had outfitted Sea Salt with a tracking device and had planned the release.
White and fiance Heather Booth attended the release Feb. 3. He said about 27 Mote representatives also gathered on the beach for the release — a chance to see the outcome of their efforts.
“When they first released him, he swam straight out to a shoal about 20 feet offshore, went the length of it and came back to shore. So they had to take him farther out,” White said. “Once he made it, he took off like a bat out of hell.”
As a native islander and fishing captain, White said he was curious to see which direction the turtle would go after it was released.
“Sea Salt went north, back towards the direction where I rescued him,” White said. “The tracking device is really noticeable. So if I’m out on the water and see a turtle with a device on its shell, my guess will be it’s my buddy Sea Salt.”