CAPE SAN BLAS, Fla. (WMBB) — A few expert swimmers braved the cold temperatures Thursday morning.
Gulf World Marine Institute volunteers released five sea turtles out of Cape San Blast.
Dozens of people gathered in Gulf County to watch the release. All five turtles were rescued from dangerously cold waters last month.
Four were kemps ridley turtles from Cape Cod. The fifth was a green sea turtle from Port St. Joe.
Gulf World Marine Institute Stranding Coordinator Lauren Albrittain said the five turtles have been housed in the Panhandle since December as they recovered from being cold-stunned.
After several weeks of treatment and recovery, it was time for them to return to the water. Colder temperatures made Thursday mornings release trickier because volunteers had to rush the turtles down the beach and into the water.
“These are reptiles,” Albrittain said. “So their body temperature is controlled by their environment. So we didn’t want to cold shock them again before we put them back in the water. So but now the water temperature actually probably feels nicer than out here right now.”
All five turtles are juveniles.
“For the green sea turtle that was out here, they are actually the largest hard shell sea turtle species when fully grown and they would get, you know, 350, 400 if it’s a really well-fed turtle,” Albrittain said.
Officials hope all five can live long, productive lives.
“We just really hope that these animals continue to thrive and contribute to the reproductive population,” Albrittain said. “These ones in particular, have many years to go before they’re at that age. But, you know, all we can do is give them their best chance to combat everything they’ve got out there.”
Gulf World officials said they plan to release more than 30 sea turtles in the near future.