Posted On: October 7, 2019
The Marine Science Center (MSC) in Ponce Inlet is awash in washbacks following strong winds and heavy surf that pushed the tiny sea turtles back onto shore, where they were found clinging to sargassum seaweed.
More than 200 washback and hatchling sea turtles have been brought to the center’s turtle hospital since Sunday. Washbacks are young sea turtles that made their way into the ocean and were literally “washed back” onto the beach. Hatchlings are newly hatched sea turtles that were unable to make it to the water’s edge.
Veterinarian Dr. Craig Pelton and other turtle care specialists are treating the babies until they are strong enough to be returned to the ocean. The process varies by the turtles’ conditions, but generally takes two weeks or more.
“When they come in, they are often lethargic and dehydrated,” noted Turtle Rehabilitation Manager Allison Bernstein. “Upon arrival, we document each one with measurements, weight, pictures and location. Then we give them subcutaneous fluids with dextrose. Once we feel they have rested and are water ready, we introduce them into shallow baby pools and begin feeding them.”
When the time is right, MSC staff will coordinate with a turtle rehab facility in South Florida to put the recovered turtles on a boat and return them to the Sargasso Sea, a vast patch of ocean named for free-floating seaweed called sargassum.
In the meantime, the youngsters can be seen recovering in small pools at the Marine Science Center.
“If you find a washback or endangered hatchling on the beach, do not put it back in the ocean or hold it in standing water,” said Jennifer Winters, Volusia County’s sea turtle habitat conservation manager. “These animals are often exhausted and can barely lift their heads to breathe.”
She encourages people to follow these tips:
· Make sure the turtle is out of harm’s way. Do not take it home.
· Leave it on the sand and provide shade. Determine your exact location. The address, building name, street name or GPS location are most helpful.
· Immediately notify the county’s Beach Safety Division at 386-239-6414. Between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., call Sheriff’s Dispatch at 386-248-1777, ext. 6.
· Keep the turtle in a quiet, dry, shaded area with no direct air conditioning or standing water. Do this even if you think it is dead. If Beach Safety employees are not available, they will contact another group to obtain the turtle from you and transport it to the Marine Science Center.
For more information, call the Marine Science Center at 386-304-5545 or visit www.marinesciencecenter.com.