ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Over 40 young turtles washed onto St. Johns County beaches on Sunday, according to St. Johns County officials.
The large numbers of beached turtles Monday continued a trend that has now seen more than 70 young turtles, or "washbacks", end up on St. Johns County beaches over the last week as a result of rough seas.
A washback is a post-hatchling sea turtle that has left the nest, swam out to sea and has been pushed back onto the beach during a wind, high tide or storm event, according to the county. After hatching, the turtles set out for a layer of seaweed called the Sargasso Sea to feed and find shelter, but if the seaweed breaks off during a storm, the seaweed washes back to shore and can bring the turtles with it.
In order to deal with the issue, St. Johns County has a team of about 200 volunteers in its Beach Steward and Washback Program that surveys the beaches to recover the washbacks.
With the continued onset of high winds and storms that have stayed offshore, the ocean has been pushing towards the Florida coastline for several weeks now, the county said.
Anyone who finds a washback is asked to call the FWC at 1-888-404-3922 and a trained staff member or volunteer will be dispatched to recover them. Do not place the animal back in the ocean, the county advises. The animals are brought to the Whitney Sea Turtle Hospital where they will receive medical attention and ultimately be released back into the ocean several miles offshore.