JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In celebration of Earth Day, New England Aquarium staff and volunteers released dozens of sea turtles in Jacksonville on Tuesday.
These sea turtles are mostly juveniles, including 28 Kemp's Ridleys, the world's most endangered sea turtle, two loggerheads and one green.
They all washed up last November and December in the Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts, according to the New England Aquarium staff. The waterway has land on three sides and an exit only to the north.
The waterway makes it difficult for the young turtles to navigation, and they slowly become hypothermic as water temperatures drop throughout the year.
Staff and volunteers from the Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary rescue the endangered turtles. They are then transported to the New England Aquarium's sea turtle hospital in Quincy, Mass., where they are slowly rewarmed over several days and then treated for several months for malnourishment, dehydration, pneumonia and other blood and organ disorders that are a result of their time in frigid water.
The sea turtles were transported from Boston in a 24-hour drive and were released into the warm Florida surf at Little Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville. About 100 people gathered to watch.
"This is unreal. It's been really awesome to see something like this," Chris Weaver said.
"The energy level you see here today is far different from what you see when they come in the first few weeks," said Connie Merigo, director of rescue for the New England Aquarium.
Since 1990, the aquarium has treated and released more than 1,000 endangered and threatened sea turtles.