News Releases

Sea turtle rescues continue in Florida waters

News Release

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Media contact: Carli Segelson, 727-896-8626

The unusually long spell of cold weather in Florida has had a big impact on sea turtles. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has been working with staff from county, state and federal agencies as well as numerous volunteers on a mass rescue effort for sea turtles throughout the state. More than 2,000 sea turtles have been rescued so far, with 750 of those taken for triage to Merritt Island National Refuge. As the sea turtles recover and water temperatures rise, another major effort will occur as the sea turtles are released.

"The work being done for sea turtles has required a tremendous collaborative effort with other agencies, businesses and rehab facilities," said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. "We thank everyone who has provided us with assistance to ensure sea turtles get through this unprecedented period of cold."

When the water temperature drops, stunned sea turtles may float listlessly in the water or wash onto shore. Although these turtles may appear to be dead, they are often still alive. It is important to report these turtles to the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) as soon as possible.

"Sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act," said Robbin Trindell, FWC sea turtle biologist. "Besides being illegal to disturb them, trying to rescue the turtles without expertise could harm the distressed animal further."

The FWC and its partners have worked together over the past few days to pick up the turtles and transport them to places where they can recover from the cold shock. Sea turtle rehabilitation facilities throughout the state are housing these animals until they can be released when temperatures warm.

Most of the more than 2,000 sea turtles affected by the current cold snap in Florida are green turtles, with smaller numbers of loggerheads, Kemp's Ridley and hawksbill turtles. Cold-stunned sea turtles have been found stranded in inshore waters in Brevard, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, Monroe, Bay, Gulf, Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. FWC biologists predict the majority of the affected turtles will survive.

"I am extremely proud of everyone who has pulled together to make sure these very special animals can survive one of the worst cold spells our state has ever seen," Barreto said. "It just shows what can be accomplished when folks pull together."

Stranded sea turtles and all other distressed wildlife may be reported to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).


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