CAPE SAN BLAS, Fla. (WMBB)– Gulf World Marine Institute returned 18 sea turtles to the Gulf after being rehabilitated.

The release included juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles that were flown down by Turtles Fly Too private jets late in 2020, as well as a few locally stranded juvenile green sea turtles that were rescued by members of the United States Geological Survey and the Florida Coastal Conservancy.

The turtles were recovering from a phenomena known as cold stunning.

“If they are in water that is too cold their internal temperature drops and they are not able to function properly,” said Lauren Albrittain, the stranding coordinator for Gulf World Marine Institute.

The recovery process for some of the turtles began in November.

“So we get them into rehab, we warm them up, and if they need antibiotics- we give them antibiotics. We give them whatever they need and as soon as they are ready, we send them back out to warm water,” Albrittain said.

Some of the turtles were transported from facilities as far as New England, as their facilities were overwhelmed by the amount of turtles they had to rehabilitate.

“The New England area facilities can not keep that many turtles in their facilities long term, so they actually fly them out to many facilities across the country,” Albrittain said.

While it is not often that cold-stunning occurs in our waters, Albrittain said the Gulf World Marine Institute is always ready to lend a helping hand. So far this year, they have helped 69 turtles.

Each of the turtles released today were chipped, Albrittain said this will help to notify them if the turtles stands again and could be in distress.

Albrittain also expressed that the public should also not try to push a sea turtle that may appear to be in distress back into the water, instead contact Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials to assist in placing the turtle with local rescue groups.