In the latest wave of what likely could prove to be thousands, 45 sea turtle hatchlings have been released into the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of miles from where their eggs were laid on Gulf of Mexico beaches.
The release of the turtles Monday night from a remote beach on the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is an ambitious attempt by federal wildlife authorities to prevent sea turtle hatchlings from swimming into oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
According to Interior officials, since late June more than 130 sea turtle nests on the shores of Alabama, Mississippi, and the Florida Panhandle have been dug up and their eggs incubated and whisked by FedEx trucks to a climate-controlled facility at the Space Center.
Among the threatened and endangered sea turtle hatchlings released Monday night were loggerheads, according to a release from the Interior Department. Officials could not immediately say whether the eggs had come from nests at Gulf Islands or Padre Island national seashores.
Back in July shipments of endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle eggs were sent from Gulf Islands to Florida for incubation and release.
“While there are still many nests left to hatch at Kennedy, we’re ecstatic about the early results from this high-stakes mission to preserve and protect these amazing sea creatures,” said Tom Strickland, assistant secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. “Thanks to the helping hands of many terrific partners, we are seeing success from an unprecedented operation to save this year’s hatchlings from what could have been a catastrophic loss.”
The number of nests relocated will continue to increase over the next few weeks, reaching peak the week of August 23, when FedEx is expected to transport more than 4,000 eggs per day. FedEx is donating logistics expertise and transportation for all eggs throughout the July – October sea turtle season, using air-ride suspension, temperature-controlled vehicles for the vibration and temperature sensitive sea turtle eggs, according to Interior officials.