Monday, March 8, 2021

Turtles released back into Gulf after Texas freeze

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Thousands of sea turtles were taken in along the Texas coast last week after they became stunned when the water temperatures dropped.

Everyone from biologists to the U.S. Coast Guard to volunteers were out picking up sea turtles and bringing them to safety.

At one point, sea turtles lined the floor of the South Padre Island Convention Center.

In an idle research vessel about 20 miles from the Texas coastline, Rob Perkins, a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M University at Galveston, gently picked up a rehabilitated green sea turtle from inside a plastic tub.

The turtle eagerly flapped its limbs as Perkins gently tossed it into the welcoming waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

A week ago, this turtle was one of 60 that were cold-stunned and rescued by an army of volunteers from frigid waters, victims of the four-day freeze that briefly crippled the region.

On Sunday, a team of naturalists, volunteers and marine scientists packed 25 of those newly healed turtles onto the Trident, a 70-foot research vessel docked at Texas A&M’s Galveston campus, and motored off shore to release them back into the wild.

The freeze represented the largest turtle cold-stunning event since researchers in 1980 began recording them nationwide, said Donna Shaver, the Texas coordinator for the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network.

Preliminary estimates Friday showed that more than 8,000 stunnings had been recorded in Texas this winter, the bulk of which were during the freeze.

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It was far above the record 4,613 cold-stunned turtles in Florida in 2010.

The early estimates also showed only roughly half were found alive.

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