Coast Guard to fly almost 200 sea turtles to Florida Tuesday
Only a third of the way through stranding season, Massachusetts Audubon and New England Aquarium (NEA) facilities are already bursting at the seams with rescued sea turtles. In less than a month's time, hundreds of endangered juvenile Kemp's Ridley sea turtles have washed ashore on Cape Cod. Staff and volunteers of Massachusetts Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (WBWS) have come to the rescue each day plucking the cold stunned turtles from the shore.
Those turtles have been transported to the New England Aquarium's turtle rehabilitation facility in Quincy, where they are being treated for hypothermia and various other ailments.
According to an NEA release, on average the sanctuary and the aquarium rehabilitate 90 sea turtles a year. But so far, the 400 turtles are being cared for in Quincy and another 100 are waiting in Wellfleet to be transferred off Cape.
To free up resources at the turtle rehab, a United States Coast Guard HC-144A Ocean Sentry aircrew will be flying 193 sea turtles to the warmer climes of Florida, according to a USCG release. When the turtles touch down in Orlando, they will be distributed between 10 marine rehabilitation facilities, according to the NEA.
Even when the 193 fly out, things will still be tight in Quincy where 150 turtles will remain in the facility's care. At the Quincy facility, the turtles are re-warmed during a four-day process.
The turtles will be moved from Quincy early Tuesday morning to Otis Air National Guard Base in Bourne where they will leave for Florida under protection of the United States Coast Guard.
Kemp's Ridley sea turtles are the most endangered sea turtle in the world and are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
According to the New England Aquarium, this unprecedented number of strandings may indicate "good survivorship" among hatchling over the last two to five years signaling a slow recovery for the species.