Certain marine species are protected by federal law. Should any of these species be inadvertently taken in nets, on fishing hooks or otherwise, they must be taken to a rehabilitation facility or immediately released unharmed. Protected species include, but are not restricted, to the following:
- All marine mammals
- West Indian Manatee
- Kemp’s Ridley, Hawksbill, Leatherback, Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtles (see below)
- Atlantic and Gulf Sturgeon
- Marine birds
- Smalltooth and Largetooth Sawfish
- Rice’s Whale (formerly Bryde’s Whale)
- Giant Manta Ray
- Oceanic Whitetip Shark
If an injured or dead sea turtle or marine mammal is found, immediately call the following office:
- Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, 1-888-SOS-DOLPHIN (1-888-767-3657) *National Marine Fisheries Service, Pascagoula, 228-369-4796
Information on manatee sightings is greatly needed. To report a sighting, or if an injured or dead manatee is found, immediately call:
- Manatee Sighting Network, 1-866-493-5803
To report a captured Gulf sturgeon call:
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 850-769-0552
- Gulf Coast Research Laboratory,
For all other injured or dead protected species, immediately notify:
- Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, 228-374-5000
Please note that criminal violations (intentionally shooting, killing or harming endangered or threatened animals) of the Endangered Species Act carry a maximum fine of $20,000 and a jail sentence of up to one year. Should this action be observed, call NOAA Fisheries Service or MDMR Marine Patrol.
Attention fishermen: It is against the law to possess fish with heads, tails or flesh removed until the final destination. Fish may be eviscerated and scaled. To protect sea turtles, please discard fish parts in trash receptacles on land.
While Fishing, Help Save Sea Turtles
Sea turtles inadvertently caught in trawls may appear to be dead, but the Endangered Species Act of 1973 requires that fishermen attempt resuscitation of such sea turtles.
- Place the sea turtle on its breastplate (lower shell) and elevate its hindquarters several inches.
- Keep the turtle moist and in the shade. Do not put turtle in a container with water.
- Once recovered, release the turtle over the stern of the vessel (with engines in neutral).
How to Avoid Hooking and Entangling a Sea Turtle
- Reuse bait and properly dispose of cleaned fish remains. Dumping bait attracts sea turtles to piers.
- Recycle fishing line and stash your trash.
- Never feed sea turtles – it is harmful and illegal.
- Use corrodible (non-stainless steel) hooks to reduce injuries to wildlife.
- Reel in your line or change location if a sea turtle is near or shows interest in your bait or catch.
- Never cast in the direction of a sea turtle.
What to Do if You Hook a Sea Turtle
If you catch a sea turtle while fishing, immediately call the response team at 1-888-SOS-DOLPHIN (1-888-767-3657), even if the turtle got away.
While you wait for the response team:
- Do NOT lift by the hook or by pulling on the line.
- Use a net or lift by the sides of the shell to bring the turtle on the pier or land. If no net is available or the turtle is too large, try to walk it to the beach.
- Leave the hook in place as removing it could cause harm.
- Keep the turtle out of direct sunlight, and cover the shell with a damp towel. Do not cover the head.