The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released six rehabilitated sea turtles early Tuesday morning, June 30th, 2020 at Grayton Beach State Park off of East County Highway 30A.
All six of the rehabilitated sea turtles fell victim to ingested marine debris in the Gulf or fishing equipment related injuries. Their time of stay in rehabilitation at the C.A.R.E. Center varied.
The first turtle to be released was Damsel, a sub-adult green sea turtle, who was foul-hooked in the front left flipper by fishermen at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on June 29, 2020. The hook was removed and radiographs showed that no foreign debris had been ingest so Damsel was quickly ready for release back into the Gulf.
Tyrell and Flick, two juvenile green sea turtles, were next to be released. Both turtles were found near Navarre Beach Fishing Pier in mid-June. Tyrell was foul-hooked by fishermen with a double barbed j-hook in the right front flipper. Flick had fishing line wrapped around both front shoulders and had become entangled to the pier piling. There was also a large hook embedded into his right front flipper. The juvenile Green sea turtles received clean bills of health, and were quickly ready for release after the removal of the hooks and fishing line.
Claudia, the fourth sea turtle to be released by the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center team, was discovered near Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier on June 5, 2020. This 112lb sub-adult loggerhead was found with roughly 3lbs of fishing gear (including a fishing rod, full sabiki rig, multiple types of lines and weights) trailing from her. With the help of Okaloosa Pier Staff, she was rescued and brought to the C.A.R.E. Center. This was Claudia's second visit to the center. She was previously found slightly east of the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier on Sept. 13, 2019, with fishing line severely entangling her front right shoulder, as well as a fishing lure caught in her front right flipper.
"Incidental capture in fishing line is one of the greatest threats to sea turtles," states Terra Throgmorton, Gulfarium's Medical & Stranding Coordinator. "If such an event occurs, please do not cut the line and let the turtle swim away. Call Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) for immediate direction on what to do. Also, make sure to dispose of all fishing gear correctly as discarded fishing debris has the potential to become severely entangled, which could result in limb amputations, drowning, or even death."
Shimano was the next turtle to head back into the Gulf of Mexico. This 40lb Kemp's ridley sea turtle was hooked by fishermen at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on June 11, 2020. Radiographs showed that no debris had been ingested and, following the removal of the hook from Shimano's mouth, he was ready for release.
The final sea turtle to be released was Mahogany, a 100lb sub-adult loggerhead. Mahogany was caught by fishermen at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier on May 23, 2020. In addition to fishing line protruding from her mouth, there was line entangled around her front left shoulder and flipper. Radiographs revealed a large gauge hook located in her esophagus, as well as two fishing hooks in her intestines. Surgery was required to remove the large gauge hook from her esophagus but she was able to pass the two intestinal hooks on her own. The C.A.R.E. team closely monitored her suture site to ensure healing and provided nutritional support to aid weight gain before she was deemed ready for release.
"We are very thankful for the responsible fishermen and pier staff for taking the correct steps to rescue this turtle," explains Will Merrill, President of the Gulfarium. "All species of sea turtle are endangered so we are passionate about doing everything we can to help these animals. We couldn't be happier that these turtles were able to be released back into the Gulf. I am proud of our team and their commitment to give sea turtles second chances"
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The Gulfarium CARE Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is proud to act as a beacon for coastal conservation through marine animal rescue and rehabilitation. Donations are tax-deductible and can be made online on the C.A.R.E. Center's page.