On Wednesday, more than 150 admiring beachgoers said goodbye to “Little Crush” as it was returned to its salty underwater home. This rehabilitated green sea turtle washed ashore five months earlier, underweight and ill from ingesting more than 70 man-made items discarded in the oceans. After being treated by a team of Walt Disney World animal-care specialists, it regained its health and was released into the ocean.

Little Crush (so named for his resemblance to Disney’s turtle character in Finding Nemo) was also equipped with a satellite transmitter enabling researchers to keep tabs on its ocean voyages. According to 11-year-old Alex Custer, the ceremony was “awesome.”

Little did Alex and those other 150 beachgoers know that Little Crush is not heading into a ocean of possibilities; he’s heading into a sea of danger. He’ll have to run a gauntlet of commercial fishing gear and may — if he’s like many other sea turtles — end up hooked on a longline or captured in a net.

Alex and the beachgoers also likely don’t realize that our government ignores its own laws and officially sanctions and allows the catching (and killing) of thousands of endangered and threatened sea turtles by commercial fishing operations every year. Not quite the Disney ending we’d (all) hope for.

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