Saturday, November 10, 2012

Three Sea Turtles of Three Species Released by Boat Bringing the South Carolina Aquarium to 99 Sea Turtle Releases!

On October 19, three sea turtles were released by boat just off SC's coast. Charlie and Merigo, a loggerhead and Kemp's ridley, were rehabilitated at the South Carolina Aquarium (SCA) and the third, a juvenile green sea turtle, was rehabilitated at the National Aquarium in Baltimore (NAIB). Releasing three species of sea turtles is very exciting and to make it even more exciting, the NAIB green was fitted with a satellite transmitter to track it's migration.

From Aquarium to Dock
The National Aquarium and South Carolina Aquarium staff met at 5:45am Friday morning to load the sea turtles for release. What an exhilarating way to start the day!

Olympian swims in his/her overnight home in the South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital after being transported from the National Aquarium in Baltimore on Thursday.
Charlie makes a last big splash Friday morning before he gets loaded up to head home.
Gumby watches as wet Stephan and Chuck load Charlie into the transport container.

Merigo's transport container is much smaller than Charlie's. A little spray down and s/he was ready to go!

Olympian looks out from his/her transport container.
The turtles get pulled from the husbandry van and carried down the dock to the boat.
The small turtles are much easier to transport!
The Boat Ride
Special thanks to the boat owner John Hill and his crew, David and Charlie, for helping us release the turtles by boat. This was the fourth sea turtle release from the El Tejano in the last few years and we are grateful for the support! We also thank Joe and Jane Sylvan, Elena Terry, and the National Aquarium crew for being part of the release and making it that much more meaningful. Below are a few photos of the boat ride to release the turtles at 4KI, an artificial reef about 10 miles off the coast of Kiawah Island where water temperatures were 75 degrees F.

From left to right: first mate, Charlie Lewis; boat captain, David Redd; friends Elena Terry and Joe and Jane Sylvan; Chuck Erbe and Amber White from NAIB; Kelly Thorvalson from SCA; and owner of the El Tejano, John Hill.
Joe and John on the way out to the reef. Once there, these two helped release Charlie, the 150 pound loggerhead.
A beautiful morning!
John and Kelly chatting, most likely about sea turtles or fishing!
The Release
Merigo is a 9-pound juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the most endangered of all of the sea turtle species. Merigo was brought to the South Carolina Aquarium with a group of sea turtles found cold stunned off the coast of Boston, Massachusetts and initially treated at the New England Aquarium. Because sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles, they become hypothermic when exposed to extremely cold water temperatures. Merigo is the last of the MA group to be released.

Ready, set...
Swim, swim away! Good luck, Merigo!

Charlie is a 150-pound loggerhead sea turtle that was captured by the SCDNR In-Water Research Program in June. Charlie was injured by a stingray caught in the same net, the barb puncturing the front left flipper and neck. Because stingrays release venom from their barbs, medical treatment is necessary.

Charlie was anxious to go and was only on the side of the boat for about 5 seconds before being released!

Goodbye and good luck, Charlie!

Olympian is a 9-pound juvenile green sea turtle that was brought to the National Aquarium in Baltimore's Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) after being spotted floating off the New Jersey coast in August. Olympian was treated for over-inflated lungs and possible pneumonia. The National Aquarium team has attached a satellite tag to Olympian and hopes that the tag will lend insight as to where the turtle overwinters, and if/when it returns to the east coast next year. You can keep an eye on Olympian’s journey here.

Amber ready to release little Olympian!
Good luck little Olympian! 
When you go to Olympian's tracking map, notice that within a day of the release 10 miles offshore, s/he had travelled right to the Charleston Harbor, not far from the South Carolina Aquarium! This is certainly not the best place for sea turtles because of the boat traffic but luckily, s/he made it out and is hugging the coast traveling north. Interesting that despite being released off the coast, his instincts brought him right back inshore!

Want More?
Check out the media articles about this release:

News 4 Charleston video and article
Post and Courier article
Post and Courier video and article

Thanks to all involved in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of these sea turtles. It takes an army to make it happen and each and every step along the way is so important!

Kelly Thorvalson and Whitney Daniel
Sea Turtle Rescue Program staff
South Carolina Aquarium