“Cold stun” – a condition affecting sea turtles caused by colder water temperatures – overcame numerous sea turtles throughout the state. When the water drops below the normal body temperature of the cold-blooded sea turtles, their metabolic rate (the amount of energy expended in a give period) consequently drops, and the turtles will stop swimming and eating. Sea turtles are left floating, and sometimes wash ashore.
“All facilities in Florida that can take in sea turtles are doing so right now to help with this emergency status,” said Danielle O’Neil, Manager of Sea Turtle Rehabilitation at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA).
The CMA, which is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine life, found themselves operating in emergency mode to rescue the many sea turtles washing ashore during the cold snap. In a one-week period, a total of 78 turtles were taken in at the CMA’s Clearwater Beach facilities. Many washed ashore locally, on Honeymoon Island, Anclote Key, Caladesi Island, Belleair Beach, etc.; but several were transported in from as far as Mosquito Lagoon on Florida’s east coast. Statewide, a reported 2,000 sea turtles had been rescued and placed in facilities.
The CMA received help from AquaCal in its relief efforts. The local pool supply company donated $45,000 worth of pool heaters to help keep the sea turtles warm. The equipment was also used to heat Winter and Panama’s dolphin tanks.
Since temperatures have risen and the water has warmed, sea turtles rescued from the east coast of Florida have already been transported and released on Juno Beach.
“If you are out on a boat and see sea turtles swimming around fine, please do not disturb them,” cautions the CMA. “Only call our 24-hour stranding line if the turtle does not swim away from you when you try to get it out of the water. Sometimes, turtles can be basking in the sun with their eyes closed. Please do not confuse this with ‘cold stun.’ Please call our stranding line if you see any sea turtles on the beach.” That number is 727-441-1790 ext. 234
For more information, visit www.SeaWinter.com.