This week, 242 sea turtles were released into the Gulf of Mexico near Gulf County, Florida. The turtles had been stunned last week by freezing water in St. Joseph Bay, due to a sudden shift in the weather. Turtles are susceptible to such cold spells because it causes hypothermia, and they become too sluggish to forage or defend themselves. Juvenile turtles typically are the ones most affected by hypothermia as they don’t have the body weight built up, which helps insulate them from temperature drops. All of those released back into the Gulf are green turtles.
Local residents, volunteers from a nearby nature preserve and University of Florida researchers all helped collect turtles that were stunned by one of the cold spells. They were taken to Gulf World Marine Park and the Gulfwarium, where they were warmed and cared for until their health was stabilized.
“Sea turtles can tolerate water temperatures down to about 50 degrees, but when it drops below that, they’re in trouble. St. Joseph Bay is a long bay that is open only at the north end, and turtles may become trapped when the water cools quickly,” said Dr. Allen Foley. (Source: Winknews.com)
Green turtles are endangered, and protected by law, so harming, killing them or disturbing their nests are all prohibited. They are large turtles weighing on average 300-400 pounds, but some have grown to over 600. Found all over the world, they can swim very long distances. To reach their spawning grounds some swim over 1,500 miles.
The state of Florida actually has a special license plate to celebrate sea turtles. This particular specialty plate is $23 and generates about one million dollars per year for sea turtle conservation and research.
You can see some examples of the types of projects funded here, such as $13,175 for The Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s project titled, “Assessing Migratory Patterns of Long-term, Repeat Nesting Loggerhead Turtles on Keewaydin Island, Florida.”
Image Credit: Manuel Heinrich Emha