A mere seconds after placing a live crab into Mystogan’s tank a few days ago, the 97-pound loggerhead began hunting the salty snack.

That’s when Sea Turtle Inc. staff knew their patient was ready to leave.

After three months of rehabilitation, Mystogan recovered from multiple issues and was released back into the ocean Friday at Isla Blanca Park, in front of hundreds of mesmerized spectators.

Upon the arrival of Sea Turtle Inc.’s truck, observers pulled out their phones and cameras to capture the exact moment when Mystogan reunited with the Gulf of Mexico.

After being taken out of the truck and placed on the sand by staff members, Mystogan took its time kicking the sand from underneath it’s large body and slowly moved closer to the ocean’s tide until taking a final dip into the current.

In September, Sea Turtle Inc. personnel rescued Mystogan at 4 a.m. near the Pirate’s Landing Fishing Pier after accidentally getting hooked by a fisherman.

“Normally, when fishermen accidently hook turtles, they often will just cut the line,” said Sea Turtle Inc. Licensed Veterinary Technician Nina Nahvi. “So,I’m really glad they didn’t because in this particular case, Mystogan had a hook embedded in its esophagus, a hook in its shoulder, and a hook at the tip of its left front flipper.”

If the fisherman had just cut the line and let Mystogan go instead of calling Sea Turtle Inc., the turtle probably would have died because the hook would have rusted and caused an infection.

Therefore, Sea Turtle Inc. staff highly recommends people call their 24/7 emergency stranding hotline when they hook a turtle or come across any in distress.

Laguna Vista resident Mary Volz witnessed her first sea turtle release and described it as a very emotional experience.

“It’s sad that we have to do this because of people polluting our waters with things that hurt the turtles, but I think Sea Turtle Inc. is doing a wonderful job at monitoring and helping the turtles,” Volz said.

In addition to rehabilitating sea turtles, Nahvi believes spreading public education is also a really important part of Sea Turtle Inc.’s job.

“Educating and informing the public is really going to make long-term benefits for the turtles here on the Island,” she said. “So, it’s always really nice when we see a lot of people come out to take a look at our turtles.”

According to Nahvi, the number one way people can help protect sea turtles, is by picking up trash on the beach.

“Almost every turtle that has come in to Sea Turtle Inc., has ingested plastic at some point or another, she explained. “So, picking up any trash you see prevents it from getting washed out into the ocean and will help not just help sea turtles, but everything else.”