Sea turtle impaled by metre-long spear swims to freedom

A protected sea turtle found with a metre long diver's spear lodged in her neck has been released back into the wild in the US.

The reptile, known as 'Splinter', underwent emergency surgery back in September after being found entangled in a commercial fishing line.

It was a cautious reunion with the Atlantic Ocean as she let the water lap at her feet before swimming away to spectator's cheers.

She's been in the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital in Marathon for the last two months on antibiotics and recovering from surgery.

The release on Saturday marks her full recovery.

"Splinter's release is an incredible opportunity to educate the general public that sea turtles are off-limits in the United States," said Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach. "They're protected by both federal and state laws, and you can't touch a sea turtle unless you're on a permit to help them."

Since opening 30 years ago the turtle hospital has rehabilitated more than 2000 injured sea turtles. Director Richie Moretti says it's a real privilege.

"We look at each animal - maybe that animal is going to have babies that your babies will see," he says.

"So we love each one of them and we will do whatever it takes to save each individual one."

The hunt is still on for the person responsible for shooting Splinter.

Moretti and local businesses have put up a US$25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.