Loggerhead Sea Turtle Hatchlings Released Into the Atlantic Ocean

Back in July a number of Kemp's ridley sea turtle hatchlings were released into the Atlantic Ocean from a beach at the Kennedy Space Center. Photo by Kim Shiflett, NASA.

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.

Comments

So great to hear! And great to see a company like FedEx donating their services for such a great cause.

The release was actually at the Canaveral National Seashore beach.

@Kurt: The press release does not specify whether the release site was within Merrit Island NWR or at Canaveral National Seashore. Both protected areas are on Merrit Island.

Fair enough. Here's a blurb from the July release of Kemp's ridley turtles from the Kennedy Space Center site:

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as an overlay of Kennedy Space Center, where it shares the land with space shuttle launch pads, rockets and research and development facilities. In addition, Canaveral National Seashore is partially in Kennedy also, and together these agencies provide more 24 miles of sea turtle nesting beach habitat.

So, as Professor Bob might say in his best weasel-speak, we both could be right....

Several folks from my office attended that release. It was indeed at Canaveral National Seashore.

I'm curious as to what will happen when the turtles reach sexual maturity. Usually they come back to the beach they were hatched on to lay their own eggs. Does this mean in the future not as many turtles will be heading to the Gulf coast to lay their eggs?

"""I'm curious as to what will happen when the turtles reach sexual maturity. Usually they come back to the beach they were hatched on to lay their own eggs. Does this mean in the future not as many turtles will be heading to the Gulf coast to lay their eggs?"""
Likely yes. If they moved all the turtle eggs laid in one year, it would likely be only a 4% drop. This assumes a 25 year reproductive life for a surviving turtle. Wikipedia says their reproductive life is a bit longer than that.

I do think they should be hatching and releasing them at a much wider range of release sites.