Three Turtles Returned After Seven-Month Rehab Stint

Three Turtles Returned After Seven-Month Rehab Stint

OCEAN CITY — Three successfully rehabilitated Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles were re-released from the beach in Ocean City early last Friday morning, but National Aquarium staffers are now dealing with a different threat to the endangered species.

Last Friday morning, National Aquarium staffers released three endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles from the beach near the Inlet in Ocean City. The three turtles, Muppy, Brewster and A. Ligator, had been spent the last seven months at the National Aquarium marine animal rehabilitation facility in Baltimore recovering from a fairly common phenomenon known as cold stunning.

Throughout the winter, hundreds of cold-stunned sea turtles were discovered on the beaches throughout the mid-Atlantic region and many found their way to rehabilitation centers like the National Aquarium in Baltimore. The sea turtles hit patches of extremely cold water in their typical migratory patterns to warmer climates and the cold water literally stuns them to the point their bodies start to shut down and they wash up on the beaches.

The three sea turtles released from the beach in Ocean City last Friday were victims of cold-stunning. They were successfully rehabilitated after being admitted to the National Aquarium with a variety of illnesses and injuries including pneumonia, jaw lacerations and shell lesions. Each was fitted with microchips and metal flipper tags to help identify them if they are sighted in the future.
Meanwhile, the National Aquarium’s Stranding Response Program is now dealing with a different epidemic impacting endangered sea turtles in and around the mid-Atlantic area including Ocean City. The stranding program is seeing more and more cases sea turtles suffering from injuries caused by fishing tackle, line and hooks.

In fact, the aquarium has seen more cases of hooked sea turtles in the last few weeks at 22 than in the entire 2014 turtle season when just 14 cases were reported. The number of sea turtles hooked and injured by fishing gear has increased by 144 percent since 2009.

Sea turtles are endangered and there are federal laws protecting them from human activities such as harassment, poaching, hunting, killing, feeding or even touching. The top thing citizens can do to help the animals is to carefully discard fishing line, hooks and other tackle that might snare the turtles. The top thing residents and visitors can do to protect the animals is to report any suspicious incidents, entanglement cases, sightings or strandings. In Maryland, the best agency to call is the National Aquarium at 410-576-3880. In Delaware, the MERR Institute can be reached at 302-228-5029.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.