Cold snap clouds contain a silver lining
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Media contact: Carli Segelson, 727-896-8626; Patricia Behnke, 850-251-2130
Even though the recent cold snap brought many
cold-stunned sea turtles into shallow waters and onto shorelines
across the state, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission (FWC) and its many partners saved the majority of the
animals from certain death.
Frigid water temperatures stunned thousands of sea
turtles throughout the state. If left unaided, most of these
turtles would not have survived. Many would have been attacked by
predators, been hit by boats or simply drowned. Rescuers
worked feverishly for more than a week to save the immobilized
animals, rescuing and eventually releasing nearly 80 percent of the
affected sea turtles. FWC biologists are confident that most of the
sea turtles will not suffer long-term impacts from the stunning
Additional good news is emerging from those who
have been working diligently to save the animals. Rescue of the sea
turtles by the FWC and its many partners could prove beneficial to
the animals in the long term.
"We've been able to tag many more turtles than ever
before, which enables us to learn about their biology," said Dr.
Blair Witherington, FWC biologist. "It's been a great opportunity
for data collection; it's unprecedented to have access to so many
turtles at one time."
The majority of the sea turtles affected by the
cold weather are green turtles, a federally listed endangered
species. Other species include Kemp's Ridley and hawksbill, both
endangered, and the loggerhead, a threatened species. Scientists
will use genetic information obtained from the turtles to better
understand where these turtles originally hatched. Biologists also
will collect valuable information on size, geographic distribution,
health status and other factors. Tags on released turtles will
provide biologists with useful information for years to come,
including where they travel and their rate of survival.
The sea turtles were taken to staging areas, where
biologists assessed their conditions. Metal tags were placed on the
sea turtles' front flippers and various data were obtained. From
there, the sea turtles were either transported to rehabilitation
facilities or returned to the sea if they were healthy and water
conditions were suitable.
"The tremendous effort put forth by all of our
partners, volunteers and FWC staff has been a life-saver for sea
turtles," said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto. "I'm extremely
proud to be associated with this agency and all the wonderful
organizations and people who stepped up in this time of need.
With the enormous outpouring of help on this, together we
managed to take a potentially tragic situation and turn it into a
win-win for science and most importantly, for sea turtles."
Private and corporate citizens alike contributed to
the effort, with many businesses providing necessary equipment and
services at little or no cost.
"As a global company headquartered in Florida, we
are especially aware of the need to protect all of Florida's
natural resources, so this was an easy decision to provide Ryder
trucks for transporting these animals," said Rich Mohr, director of
rental for Ryder in Miami. "We very much appreciated the
opportunity to assist with the conservation of the sea turtle."
Most of the healthy turtles have been released back
into the ocean where the water conditions are now 60 degrees or
warmer. In the Panhandle this means transporting the sea turtles
out eight to 13 miles.
"It is best to get them back into their marine
habitat as soon as logistics and weather permit," Witherington
said. "They are better off in bay and lagoon waters than in the
temporary holding tanks or small pools at rehab facilities."
For more information about the efforts of the FWC
and partners to save the cold-stunned turtles, go to MyFWC.com.