Vets from Vet Cross work to remove a shark hook from a green turtle found off the coast.
Vets from Vet Cross work to remove a shark hook from a green turtle found off the coast. Contributed

Turtle saved by emergency surgery

A GREEN turtle's life was saved when a Bundaberg veterinary practice performed emergency surgery to remove a shark hook from the back of its neck.

Two vets from Vet Cross performed the lifesaving surgery, removing the thick metal hook on Tuesday morning after Mon Repos Conservation Park rangers brought the turtle to them.

The turtle, which was safely released at the park yesterday, was the seventh to be caught in the shark control equipment this year.

Vet Tim Hill said the position of the baited shark hook made it a dangerous spot, just underneath the animal's shell.

"It was lodged around the ligaments, which let the turtle lift its neck to breath," he said.

Dr Hill said the hook was also near a cluster of blood vessels, meaning the turtle could have been in serious trouble if the hook had moved.

He said the surgery was quite quick once the turtle had been anaesthetised.

"It's not really (delicate) - you just have to get the hook out," he said.

"The idea is not to cause any more damage, but to get the hook out as quickly as possible."

Dr Hill said the most challenging part of the surgery was ensuring the turtle was not harmed by the anaesthesia.

"You have to monitor their breathing and, because turtles don't breathe regularly, it can be a bit difficult," he said.

The endangered turtle had previously been tagged by rangers at Mon Repos.

Dr Hill said the tag records showed the turtle had also had a hook removed in 2007.

"It was about 20-25 years old, so it's not at breeding age yet," he said.

Green turtles begin to breed when they reach about 40.

Department of Environment and Resource Management turtle researcher and expert Col Limpus said the turtle was a long-term resident of the Woongarra Coast.

"It was observed swimming away strongly (when released)," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, which oversees the shark control equipment, said all seven turtles caught this year had been released safely.

She said 35 sharks had been caught in the first six months of the year.

"Shark contractors are well trained in animal care and release, which is helping to reduce impacts on non-target catch, particularly in the case of turtles and whales," she said.

"Shark contractors check the nets every two days.

"All non-target catch is recorded by these contractors so any trends can be addressed."

She said alternative baits, hooks and hook protectors had been trialled to reduce turtle capture.

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