242 sea turtles released into the Gulf of Mexico
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Media contact: Carli Segelson, 727-896-8626, ext. 2076
Two hundred forty-two cold-stunned sea turtles removed from St.
Joseph Bay this winter were released Wednesday into the Gulf of
Mexico off Cape San Blas in Gulf County. All were green turtles.
Twenty-five Kemp's ridleys, also rescued from the cold, will be
released at a later date, along with green turtles that need
Dedicated volunteers fanned out around the southern end of St.
Joseph Bay Jan. 13-16 when a frigid cold front enveloped the South,
triggering the third sea turtle cold-stunning event in the bay this
winter. Local residents, University of Florida turtle researchers,
and volunteers from the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve braved
the cold to search marshy shorelines and inshore waters and to
bring the immobile animals to safety. Rescuers took the turtles to
Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City Beach, where they were
evaluated and warmed. About half of the turtles were then
moved to Florida's Gulfarium in Fort Walton Beach to provide them
with more swimming space.
Dr. Allen Foley, a sea turtle biologist who oversees sea turtle
rescues for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
(FWC), said the cold-stunning event was triggered by the latest
bout of cold weather, causing the shallow-water temperatures in the
southern end of St. Joseph Bay to drop into the 40s.
"Sea turtles can tolerate water temperatures down to about 50
degrees, but when it drops below that, they're in trouble," Foley
said. "St. Joseph Bay is a long bay that is open only at the north
end, and turtles may become trapped when the water cools
Dr. Robbin Trindell, an FWC biological administrator who
oversees sea turtle management efforts, offered high praise for the
volunteers who scoured the bay, sometimes several times a day, and
for staff at Gulf World Marine Park and Florida's Gulfarium.
"In addition to efforts by the volunteers and by the marine
parks, Florida's sea turtles are regularly helped by the funds
received from the sea turtle license plate program and by grants
from the NOAA Fisheries Service, which provide funds needed for the
supplies, equipment and transportation used to respond to these
events," she said.
The public can help conserve and fund research for sea turtles
by purchasing a specialty license plate or making $5 donations to
receive a decal. Every dollar for the sea turtle plate helps sea
turtles. Approximately 30 percent of the money goes to the Sea
Turtle Grants program, which the nonprofit Sea Turtle Conservancy
administers (visit www.helpingseaturtles.org for more
information). The other 70 percent of tag revenue goes to the FWC's
Marine Turtle Protection Program to support research and management
activities related to sea turtles, such as the rescues during cold
Plates and decals are available at county tax collectors'
To report sea turtles near the bay acting abnormally, call the
FWC Wildlife Alert hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922).