Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center successfully releases 7 rehabilitated sea turtles

Special to Gannett

FORT WALTON BEACH — The Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center successfully released seven rehabilitated sea turtles on Sept. 24 on Saint George Island.

Tabitha Siegfried, stranding coordinator for the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center, gently situated the rehabilitated turtles into the C.A.R.E. van to make the four-hour trek to Saint George Island.

"It is quite a ways to go from our facility for this particular release, but many of the turtles are repeat offenders, meaning they have been previously hooked at piers, so the further away we go for release, we hope will give them a better opportunity at avoiding an accidental re-capture in the future." Siegfried said. 

The seven turtles, ranging in weight from 26 to 106 pounds, were released after successful rehabilitations at the C.A.R.E. Center. All seven turtles (five sub-adult loggerheads and two juvenile green sea turtles) were accidently hooked by fishermen at local fishing piers. 

Tabitha Siegfried walks to the water’s edge with juvenile Green sea turtle, Jimbob.

"We continue to see the majority of the turtles come in due to overlaps with recreational fishing, and we feel good for the turtles, the environment, and the fisherman that people are not cutting the line," said Will Merrill, president at the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. "Most of the time, if a turtle has an external hook or entanglement, we also find them internally. Some need surgery to remove while others pass the internal monofilament on their own under medical supervision.

If you are fishing, whether from a pier or a boat, and a turtle appears, consider reeling in your line and moving to another location to avoid accidentally hooking or entangling the turtle," he added. "It is a collaborative effort to ensure the future generations of these remarkable sea turtles."

All turtles were given a clean bill of health and approved to be released though FWC officials and the C.A.R.E. veterinarian and animal care team. 

If you see a sea turtle in distress, injured, or deceased, report it to Florida Fish and Wildlife  Conservation Commission immediately at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922). 

Follow the C.A.R.E. Center on Facebook to learn more about sea turtles and the center's rehabilitation efforts.