FORT FISHER, NC (NEWS RELEASE) -- It happened much sooner than expected. The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher released two loggerhead sea turtles to the care of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission for an Atlantic release. The two turtles were part of a group of eight cold-stunned loggerheads receiving care and medical treatment at the Aquarium since New Year's Day.
Thursday, the two sea turtles received final assessments at the Aquarium and were transported to the US Coast Guard Station Fort Macon, in Atlantic Beach, for an overnight stay. On Friday morning, the USCG Cutter Seahorse ferried the turtles to warm Atlantic waters where they were released, according to Matthew Godfrey, Biologist, NC Wildlife Resources Commission Sea Turtle Project.
The animals were part of a mass cold-stun event in New England in December when more than 150 endangered sea turtles were rescued after becoming ill from prolonged exposure to cold water temperatures. After their initial rescue, the New England Aquarium in Boston cared for the turtles until they were transferred to the Aquarium at Fort Fisher on January 1. Aquarium staff implemented a specialized care and rehabilitation plan for all eight of the loggerheads and expected the recuperation time to be at least a month.
The two turtles, however, had different plans. The animals were eating well, gained weight and completed medical treatment. Their progress and space on the USCG vessel presented an opportunity.
"Returning healthy sea turtles to their natural habitat to live and grow was our goal," Aquarium Curator Hap Fatzinger said. "These turtles improved quickly and can get back to the wild. This is the best case scenario for them."
Fatzinger is optimistic about the recovery and release of the remaining six loggerhead sea turtles in the Aquarium's care. Some, however, will require a longer rehabilitation period.
Cold-stunned sea turtles occur in the coastal waters of North Carolina, as well. Anyone who finds a sick, injured or dead sea turtle should contact the NC Wildlife Resources Commission Sea Turtle Stranding Network at (252) 241-7367.