Coast Guard air crew to transport endangered sea turtles

A Coast Guard HC-144 aircraft

USCG file photo

BOSTON – A Mobile, Ala., Coast Guard aircrew is scheduled to transport 20 endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles from Hanscom Air Force Base in Lincoln, Mass., to Orlando, Fl., Sun., Dec. 12, 2010.

The Mobile-based HC-144A Ocean Sentry aircrew will transport the turtles to Orlando where they will go to Sea World for further rehabilitation before potentially being released back into the wild.

“It’s a great Coast Guard day when we can help protect marine species – especially when we can get them home for the holidays,” said Katie Moore, the Living Marine Resources program manager at Coast Guard Atlantic Area in Portsmouth, Va. “Whether it is enforcing laws to protect sea turtles caught in nets or helping stranded whales – our shipmates take great pride in being stewards of the ocean.”

Personnel from the Massachusetts Audubon at Wellfleet Bay rescued the cold-stunned turtles within the past six weeks from beaches in Cape Cod, Mass., after they were washed ashore at high tide. The turtles are now being rehabilitated by New England Aquarium staff at the Animal Care Center in Quincy, Mass.

Cold stunning in turtles in similar to hypothermia is humans. Their heart rate drops and body functions slow. The sea turtles become lethargic and unable to swim. Prolonged exposure can result in paralysis, at which time the turtles float to the surface or wash up on beaches.

Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are the most endangered sea turtles in the world.

“One of the Coast Guard’s many missions is to protect living marine resources,” said Cmdr. Doug Nash, the operations officer of Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile. “It’s a great honor to help not only these 20 turtles, but potentially help the species as a whole grow. Hopefully one day these turtles will be back in the wild and reproducing.”

“Getting these Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles healthy and back into their natural environment restores them to the breeding population, a key factor in the recovery of this endangered species,” said Kate Sampson, the Northeast sea turtle stranding coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “The volunteers and staff at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, the New England Aquarium and the U.S. Coast Guard are making a real difference in long-term prospects for these animals.”

Response, rehabilitation, and transport of endangered and threatened sea turtles is authorized and monitored nationally by NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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