DESTIN, Fla. (WKRG) — A few sea turtles that call Northwest Florida home are back in the big blue drink.
Crews from the Gulfarium CARE Center released four sea turtles Thursday morning at Inlet Beach on 30A. About 30 miles East of the rehab facility on Okaloosa Island.
- SHELDON- 79-pound Loggerhead, recovered from a foul hook on Okaloosa Island
- SHIRLEY- 56-pound Kemp’s Ridley. Hooked in Navarre May 8, 2022.
- PLUTO- 90-pound Loggerhead. Hooked in Navarre May 10, 2022.
- JAMIE- 208-pound Loggerhead. Now wears a tracker on her shell. Hooked in Navarre in Nov. 2021
- “X-rays showed that she had a large circle hook in her proximal esophagus and a small treble hook further down. Jamie underwent a four-hour surgery on November 22nd to remove both hooks. After the surgery was complete, the recovery phase was very extensive. However, after a seven-month long stay at the C.A.R.E. Center, she was finally ready to be released,” said the CARE Center.
For three of these four turtles, it was not their first time at the facility.
CARE facility staff said Jamie and Pluto have been hooked and released three times over the past few years. Sheldon has been hooked twice.
More turtles are seen in the spring and summer months during nesting season. Fishermen are warned to not cut the line and call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922), if they hook a turtle by mistake. Leaving the hook in can cause more damage or kill the animal. Sea turtle nesting season runs from May 1-Oct 31.
The Gulfarium CARE Center attached a tracking monitor to Jamie’s shell to see where she goes when she is not at the pier. The staff along with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is studying turtle behavior to combat the increasing numbers of hooked and injured turtles in Gulf waters.
Jamie’s tracker will ping a location every time it comes out of the water, similar to some shark trackers. The group with USGS plans to tag more frequent turtles at the local fishing piers to help gather data.
More than 200 people gathered on the Emerald Coast to watch the release on Thursday. 150 students came out to learn more about the native animal and how to protect the species.
All four turtles were picked up from the Navarre Fishing Pier and Okaloosa Island pier. FWC chose to release the turtles at Inlet beach.
See more about the CARE center and upcoming releases on their Facebook page.