POSTED: Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 11:02am
UPDATED: Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 11:04am
About 30 people, a mix of Sea Turtle, Inc. staff, interns, volunteers, two NOAA representatives and one from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, braved rough seas last Saturday morning that left many on the boat feeling as green as seaweed.
They did so to release 94 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, and four hawksbills, back into the wild during the early hours before dawn.
The four hawksbills were rehabilitated turtles from Sea Turtle, Inc. that were ready for release.
The 94 ridleys were born on South Padre Island in August 2013 and were sent to Florida for use in National Marine Fisheries research about turtle excluder devices, also known as TEDs.
TEDs are special devices used in shrimp trawl nets that enables sea turtles to escape from the catch before drowning.
Due to the large amounts of bycatch, which are animals that are unintentionally caught, the U.S. set laws in 1987 requiring all shrimping vessels to use TED nets.
The device has a set of bars in the opening of the net that will not allow anything larger than the space between the bars to pass through, which definitely saves larger turtles. But there has been some concern as to whether small turtles, such as first years, could pass through the device, which is what the NMF research project was investigating.
The Osprey, one of Osprey Cruises deep sea fishing boats, took the turtles and turtle staff 15 miles offshore for release in an area where sargassum floats are common.
These young turtles rely heavily on the sargassum as a food source and protection from predators.
Releasing sea turtles back into the wild is one key part of Sea Turtle, Inc.’s mission. As a sea turtle hospital, education center, and conservation nonprofit, any turtle that can be released back into the wild is a victory.
“Sea turtles return to their natal beaches as adults,” said Jeff George, STI’s Executive Director. “The Texas coast is established as an important nesting habitat for the recovery of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.
“It is important that they were released here, and return here to nest, so they can contribute to the recovery of their species,” said George.
It takes 12 years before the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are ready to reproduce.