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Sea Turtles Rescued from the Cold

A record number of sea turtles have stranded after being cold-stunned this fall. The Sea Turtle Stranding Network is bringing them in from the cold.

By Rich Press, NOAA Fisheries Science Writer | Posted: December 23, 2014
Follow Rich on Twitter: @Rich_NOAAFish


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Scientist examining a cold-stunned sea turtle. View slideshow Kate Sampson examines a cold-stunned sea turtle. Sampson is the NOAA Fisheries sea turtle stranding and disentanglement coordinator for the Northeast. Credit: NOAA. cold_turtle02.jpg cold_turtle03.jpg cold_turtle04.jpg cold_turtle05.jpg cold_turtle06.jpg cold_turtle07.jpg cold_turtle08.jpg cold_turtle09.jpg

Many species of sea turtles head south for the winter before the water turns cold. For those that lag behind, the results can be deadly. They can get cold-stunned, and since last month, over 1200 cold-stunned sea turtles have washed up on beaches in the Northeast—that’s the highest number on record for the region, and more than five times the number for the average year. To make matters worse, most of them have been Kemp’s Ridleys, which is considered the most endangered species of sea turtle out there.

As fast as the turtles are washing up on beaches, the sea turtle stranding network has been rescuing them. The stranding network is made up of federal and state agencies, aquariums, wildlife rehabilitation centers, and other organizations that have the expertise and the required permits to handle these endangered turtles. With the help of volunteers, they're bringing the turtles in from the cold.

This podcast features interviews with Kate Sampson, NOAA’s sea turtle stranding and disentanglement coordinator for the Northeast based out of the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office, and Ben Higgins of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, who runs the sea turtle program at the NOAA Fisheries lab in Galveston, Texas. They discuss the effort to rescue cold-stunned sea turtles and the possible reasons why so many turtles have cold-stunned this year.

Although this podcast covers a cold stunning even that is centered around Cape Cod, Massachusetts, cold stunning occurs in many places on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.

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